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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Have We Reached Overload on Passwords and Security?

Fingerprint (PSF)
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I don't know how you feel about passwords, security questions and the proliferation of barriers placed before us so we can supposedly safeguard our online activities. But I'm reaching saturation point with it. Those who devise websites and, especially, those who produce the ever-growing range of security products and advice, would have us invent a new password for each of the sites and applications we use where personal information is stored. They also want us to produce security questions and answers for each; all different from the others. I've actually run out of mothers to provide maiden names, towns I was born in and favourite films, books or pasta dishes.
Just to confuse the issue further, we are required, REQUIRED mind you, if we are not to break the primary rule that, 'You MUST NOT write any of this information down'. Now, I accept that I am approaching my dotage and will soon achieve my ambition of becoming a cantankerous old sod (what do you mean, I already have?), but even the young admit to running out of personal memory space (as opposed to the virtual type) to store and retrieve all these different passwords and the accompanying paraphernalia.
And then, just in case we thought we'd managed to jump through all the hoops and commit all this information to memory, they tell you that you should change the lot every three months or so. In fact, at my place of employment, they recently introduced a wonderful new system that must be accessed if you want to find out what you've been paid each month; they no longer produce the printed versions they used to. (Exactly how one is supposed to provide an original pay slip for those organisations that require such evidence in the future, I've no idea and they've failed to explain). But, on this wonderful site, which most of us took at least seven attempts to actually access the first time, due to its idiosyncrasies, the password lasts for, wait for it….40 days. 40 DAYS; that's right. So, every 40 days you have to think of a new password. This means that most payslips will only be accessible after a change of password. Brilliant, eh?
I foresee a future in which all education will revolve around the invention of passwords and security questions and answers, at the expense of actual learning.
Of course, most people will continue to consider that 'password' is adequate security and forget that their date of birth, mother's maiden name and place of birth are all readily accessible to the public from their many profiles on social networks.
So, is there a solution, something that will render this whole farrago redundant? Well, Norton 360 seems to have partially solved the problem by offering to store passwords securely for you and then retrieve them at your request. And I'm sure there must be other such helpful solutions out there. But I'm looking for something a little more radical, something that requires no memory at all, in fact.
If all PC, Mac, Mobile manufacturers (all those who produce any device that require us to install security, in fact), were required, by law, to include a fingerprint or iris reader, none of us could lose or forget our means of access (unless we suffered amputation or blinding, of course). Further, it would be near impossible to steal or otherwise retrieve the necessary entry requirements. Of course, the manufacturers of security software would lose a lucrative market. But who's more important here; the customer or the business that makes money out of the customer?
Sorry, silly question. Of course the business is far more important. Or so they would have us believe.

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