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.
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.
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.
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.
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.