We’re living in a particularly insecure digital age right now. It seems like every other day, a major internet company is getting hacked, or having its database of user passwords liberated by groups of hackers.
It’s pretty obvious at this point that we need something better than passwords to secure us from increasingly sophisticated hackers and data thieves. Many sites are rolling out 2-Step authentication — access the site on a new computer, and you have to enter a code sent to you by text message — but that implementation can be a pain. There’s got to be an easier way.
Michael Barrett, PayPal’s chief information security officer, thinks there’s a better way. It’s called the iPhone 5S.
Speaking at Interop, Barrett rightly noted that passwords had had their day in the sun. Users have dozens if not hundreds of user names and passwords, and they tend to use the same login for all of them.
“Users will pick poor passwords and then they’ll reuse them everywhere,” Barrett said. “That has the effect of reducing the security of their most secure account to the security of the least secure place they visit on the internet.”
So what’s the solution? Barrett is hawking his own organization, the Past IdentityOnline Alliance (FIDO), which wants to revolutionize online authentication with “ndustry-supported, standards-based open protocol that not only makes users more secure but is also easy and convenient to use.”
Okay, but how? Essentially by combining hardware, software and internet services… something that is Apple’s guiding mantra. The idea here is that if you wanted to log in to an account on a new device, it wouldn’t be enough to just type in a password: you’d need to authenticate your identity using a physical hardware device.
And what better way to do that than with the iPhone 5S, and similar devices coming later this year?
“It’s widely rumored that a large technology providerin Cupertino, Calif., will come out with a phone later this year that has a fingerprint reader on it,” he said. “There is going to be a fingerprint enabled phone on the market later this year. Not just one, multiple.”
That fingerprint sensor under the home button of the iPhone 5S, then, isn’t just going to be some gimmick you use instead of typing in a pin. It’s going to eventually be how you log into all of your accounts online, saving us from passwords once and for all.