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Tech Companies Looking To Eliminate Passwords

February 10, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

A regular, if a bit lucky, Google services user may be able to log in to Google’s services on just about any platform via their phone right now. Alphabet rolled the program’s beta out to a certain small crop of users and it’s one of the first steps toward eliminating the archaic institution of the password once and for all. Passwords, PIN codes and other forms of authentication that have to be memorized by users have been around for quite a long time, along with the many complications they present. On top of users sometimes forgetting passwords, they can be cracked or stolen quite easily in some cases. According to research firm Gartner, Inc., they’re just as painful and time-consuming for support as they are for users; roughly 20 to 30 percent of tech support calls tend to involve a password issue of some sort. Thankfully, moves in the tech sphere would indicate that Alphabet isn’t the only agent looking to rid the world of remembering and protecting passwords.

In just about every type of device these days, you’ll find some models featuring a fingerprint scanner. Typically, these are used for logging into and unlocking the device. In the case of Android and iOS, at least, the fingerprint APIs are being opened to developers and new use cases are popping up daily. The program mentioned above uses data from your smartphone’s various sensors to figure out who is holding the phone and allow authentication. Android Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay all use fingerprint authentication. Some banks are even experimenting with having smartphones used in the same manner as debit cards at ATMs. Additionally, about 7.5% of all apps in Apple’s App Store use fingerprint authentication via Apple’s proprietary Touch ID system, developed after buying out biometrics firm Authentec.

Security researchers are saying that this movement has thus far been a very good thing and there are no signs that trend won’t continue. A good example is the case of iPhone users at large. Before the introduction of Touch ID, only about 50 percent of iPhones in the wild were secured. These days, that number is up to 90 percent. Password headaches such as the time taken to enter them, estimated at 1,389 man years per day, and I.T. departments having to deal with changing passwords constantly would be reduced considerably, mostly by decreased password usage, if and went password replacement tech catches on.