The end is nigh: Death of the password

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells

It’s a poignant quote from one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time, one made especially powerful when you consider it came from H.G. Wells’ final book, Mind at the End of Its Tether, a year before his death. Even in 1945, when the book was released, Wells understood the rapid rate of development that the human race undergoes. The time lapse upon when things become relevant and then outdated is closing as we continue to find new and improved ways of carrying out everyday tasks. The same applies to criminals, who’re continuing to find innovative and smarter ways of committing theft, be it of data or money.

It’s incredible to think that many of us rest our trust in 8-20 digits. Of course, it’s your password. What was designed to become a secure gateway into your personal information has become the floodgates for hackers to break through user’s accounts at an alarming rate. Password requirements have continued to evolve, and many organisations now require a more complex password to include both uppercase and lowercase letters alongside numerical figures. But for some, they’re still stuck with the elementary. The number one, most common password worldwide is: 123456. Can you guess the second most popular? 132456789. Clearly drowned in severe complexity.

Sometimes though, a secure password can get exposed through a data breach. In 2015, online dating website Ashley Maddison was subjected to a data breach by hackers, which resulted in the leak of their entire database, email addresses and passwords in tow. Over 11m passwords were cracked within the first 10 days. The problem doesn’t end there though, as many people have the same password for all their digital accounts. That means that for many, the problem continued to spiral long after the initial breach.

It’s recommended each password we use be different from the other, but it’s easier said than done to memorize 10+ passwords. There are password managers available for people to store each of their secure encryptions but there must be something more discreet? Well, there might be soon. Just last year, it was reported that both Google and the White House intend to ‘kill off the password’ in the near future. Google suggest introducing biometric indicators, such as face shape or voice pattern. It was Barack Obama’s homeland security adviser who stated that eradicating passwords is one of their four goals on cyber-security.

A future without passwords? It certainly seems possible. Not only will it make it much easier for users to juggle tens of passwords, but it will also make our accounts much more secure and more difficult for hackers to gain access. This is technology’s way of adapting to the increasing challenges posed by cyber criminals. HSBC led the way on mobile banking, by introducing a fingerprint scanner for users to login. Meaning only the person who set up the account will have access. These are substantial promises to embed a more secure verification method to login’s. Whilst it may not be the complete package in answering growing questions over cyber-security, it’s a giant leap forward and ensures that, for now at least, we will avoid nature’s inexorable imperative, and perish.


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