Passwords are terrible.
They’re hard for people to remember and relatively easy for computerized programs to guess — which is why a lot of companies make you change them every 90 days and use a bunch of characters and symbols and capital letters and numbers, which makes them even harder to remember.
Because they’re so hard to remember, people often write them down on pieces of paper or send them to themselves via email, making them even less secure.
But if Microsoft has its way, the days of entering a password to log into your computer, applications, or favourite web sites may soon come to an end.
Windows 10 will include a feature called Windows Hello, and Microsoft says it “introduces system-level support for biometric authentication.” In plain English, that means that you’ll be able to log into Windows using your fingerprint or by having the computer take a picture of your face or iris.
Obviously, Microsoft isn’t the first and only company trying to rid the world of passwords. Apple’s iPhones have had the Touch ID fingerprint scanner since the iPhone 6. And PC makers like Lenovo have tinkered with face recognition instead of passwords for years too.
So, not surprisingly, to work with Windows 10, the PC will have to be equipped with a fingerprint scanner or special infrared sensors, both of which are pretty rare today. But assuming the hardware is there, Windows 10 will do the difficult software work. It can be used not only to log on to your PC, but can also identify you to applications and web sites — assuming that the creators of those apps and sites want to support Windows Hello.
Microsoft is also introducing a technology for businesses code-named Passport, which would allow employees to log on to company networks using a biometric sensor or a PIN (like you use on your phone). No password is ever stored on the PC or server, making it harder for hackers to get into networks.
Biometrics aren’t new for Microsoft either — Windows has supported them for years, and many companies already use things like fingerprint readers. The barrier has always been the ubiquity of the hardware more than the software. But with Windows 10, Microsoft is taking another shot at making them even easier. Given the high-profile hacks of the last couple years, the time may finally be ripe for mass adoption.
Here’s a video Microsoft used to introduce the features: