These are the apps and gadgets that want to kill the password as we know it

Passwords have been around for a long time — but they’re not all that good at keeping us safe.

They can be easily stolen and manipulated when they’re being passed between servers, and hackers have gotten really good at cracking them.

That’s why there are a growing number of companies investigating other means of authentication that could virtually eliminate the need for a traditional password.

Here’s a rundown of what these companies do, how they do it, and why they’re beginning to look beyond the strings of letters and numbers that have protected us for so long.

But many think passwords simply don't work.

A Wired article from 2012 writes, 'Today, nothing you do, no precaution you take, no long or random string of characters can stop a truly dedicated and devious individual from cracking your account. The age of the password has come to an end.'

But today, several companies provide services that make authentication safer and easier.

Take the Nymi bracelet, for example.

Nymi is an armband created by the company Bionym. It uses your own unique heartbeat as a way to authenticate things like payments, entry into websites, and many other potential applications.

There's also Clef.

Clef does away with the password and uses a phone as the authenticator. When people wish to gain access into a website, they have to open the Clef app and then point it at the screen. The screen is then able to recognise the image the Clef apps makes and authenticate -- similar to how a QR code works. This makes it so that only the owner of the smartphone can use Clef to gain access.

Knock is another app that wants to replace the password.

Knock lets you unlock your Mac by simply knocking on your iPhone, as its name implies. Once you knock, the app communicates with your Mac via Bluetooth.

Yahoo has been looking into password alternatives, too.

Last April, it announced it was researching a new technology called Bodyprint which uses a person's ear to unlock a phone.

Beyond these apps and devices, several companies have incorporated two-factor authentication into their services.

Companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft support two-factor authentication. Almost any important online service you use probably at least offers it as an option.

There are also password managers, which help you generate new passwords to avoid using the same one over and over again.

For instance, there's LastPass, which create unique and harder-to-crack passwords and safely store them for users.

Not to mention physical devices to supplement passwords...

Last year Google launched something it called Security Key. It allowed users to have a physical device to also have to complete authentication. In Google's case the Key was a USB dongle. There are other programs too that require a physical object -- like a USB -- to be part of the authentication process.

The bottom line...

What it comes down to is that most -- if not all -- passwords are unsafe and we are just beginning to test out how to go beyond this one arcane method of authentication.

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