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Should we scrap passwords altogether?

01 Sep 2015

Passwords are no longer enough when it comes to modern information security, according to new research from LaunchKey, which revealed password-based authentication is no longer capable of keeping up with the demands of today’s online environment.

According to survey data, 84% of respondents would support eliminating passwords all together. 

Additionally, more than three-fourths of those surveyed (76%) feel their data would be more secure with an alternative form of verification, with 59% preferring fingerprint scans over passwords.

Nearly half of the survey respondents (46%) said they currently have more than 10 passwords to manage, and 68% acknowledged that they reuse passwords for multiple accounts. Additionally, 77% said they often forget passwords or have to write them down. 

Among respondents' top password pet peeves are those systems that require users to change their password frequently, and systems that require users to create passwords that do not fit the model of one they regularly use.

"Today, the pace of security breaches directly related to stolen passwords and bypassed authentication is increasing along with the severity of their consequences," explains Geoff Sanders, CEO, LaunchKey. 

"Passwords are inherently insecure as a method of authentication, and their efficacy relies on end users, developers, system administrators, and the applications themselves, all of which are vulnerable to a wide variety of attack vectors currently being exploited by cyberattacks around the world." 

Adding to this point, Sanders noted that 27% of survey respondents acknowledged sharing their passwords with someone else.

While strong authentication is the correct approach to be taken, the traditional method of two-factor authentication (2FA) is insufficient, Sanders says. 

According to the LaunchKey survey, 64% of those surveyed do not know what 2FA is while only 20% say 2FA is easy to use.

Furthermore, many 2FA solutions on the market today represent a noticeable cost and logistical burden. A single hardware token can cost as much as $100 or more, making a 2FA solution that only satisfies a limited subset of use cases, impractical.

The LaunchKey survey also measured users' trust of public institutions to protect personal information. 

With the high number of recent data breaches in retail stores, such as Target and Home Depot, LaunchKey says it is no surprise that 52% of survey respondents expressed little to no confidence in retail stores being able to properly secure one's personal information, and 43% had little to no confidence in online retailers.

Conversely, 48% of respondents expressed high confidence in banks being able to protect personal information.

"The future of authentication is free from traditional passwords," Sanders says. "We must remove the vulnerability and liability that passwords have created while implementing more secure authentication methods that account for an evolving and diversified landscape of use cases, end users and threats."

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