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Escaping the Password

April 10th, 2012 at 9:39 am

password protectionLet’s face it. We have too much to remember. There are days we all stumble out of bed and barely remember to grab the keys on the way to the car. The last thing we need is dozens of passwords to memorize, but we’re warned never to use the same one twice or use one that anyone could ever guess. Add to that the sites that have specific requirements – your password must be twenty characters long and include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and at least one ancient Egyptian hieroglyph – and we’ve got no chance of ever remembering them all.

It’s no wonder so many people end up with all of their important passwords written on a Post-it note and stuck to the inside of their desk drawer. We’re so overwhelmed by these efforts at security that we end up resorting to methods like that which are completely insecure.

The password problem has become a “something’s gotta give” situation – and in fact it’s been there for a while. Back in 2004, Bill Gates spoke about the issues with traditional passwords, but 8 years later we’re still relying on them for a lot of important uses.

More and more replacements for passwords are emerging, though, and in addition to being easier to use and/or more secure, some of them are just plain cool! We already took a look at a few, but here’s some more that are really intriguing:

  • Researchers at Newcastle University developed a system that lets you unlock your phone by drawing a picture instead of typing a password. Don’t worry, you don’t have to recreate your doodle exactly – but the system does track where you start drawing and how many times you pick up your pen, so it’s hard to fool. Plus, for those with dyslexia or other language difficulties, this is much easier than a traditional password!
  • Applications such as KeePass and LastPass use one master password to access a database holding all of your other passwords (encrypted, of course). One password to rule them all, for all you Lord of the Rings fans. You can even integrate the software with your browser to keep passwords available at the click of a button.
  • DARPA has proposed a system that would make sure you were who you said you were just by paying attention to how you type. Since your typing style is mostly subconscious, it would be difficult for anyone else to replicate. Okay, this one doesn’t exist yet, and a lot of people would probably be hesitant to trust it, but it would be so convenient to just sit down and start typing and never have to enter a password!
  • The pattern unlock feature on Android phones (where you draw a pattern by connecting dots on a 3×3 grid) is old hat to many of us by now, but it still deserves a mention – with nearly 400,000 combinations it’s much more secure than your old combination lock. And pattern unlock is perfect for phones since drawing that pattern is so much easier on a touchscreen than typing a password.

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