The body as password

You’re probably well-acquainted with one of life’s little annoyances: the password.images

Your voicemail. Your email. Your smartphone. Maybe you’ve got a different one for each — which means you’re bound to slip up, reports NPR: “Or maybe you use the same one for everything — a security no-no. The number of sites and services that demand a password or PIN seems to have grown exponentially. And keeping track of the ones you’ve got? Forget about it.

“Well, Silicon Valley titans are getting tired of them, too. At the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference in September, Google’s top security executive, Heather Adkins, declared that passwords are dead. And that’s straight from a founding member of the security team at Google, home to 425 million email accounts. Adkins says startups tying their future to passwords might as well give up now, given how much work it takes to keep customers’ passwords secure.

“But if passwords are a thing of the past, what will replace them? Wall Street is betting on biometrics. Now that Apple is adding a fingerprint sensor to its newest iPhone, companies that make similar technology have seen their share prices jump. And industry analysts say the market for fingerprint scanners could top $10 billion in the next five years. Other biometrics companies are looking more competitive as well. Take one of Apple’s partners, Nuance Communications, a voice recognition company. You’ve probably heard their technology if you’ve called an airline or reserved a hotel room — particularly if you’ve heard, “Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes.” Nuance Communications is gathering data to improve its voice-recognition technology. The goal is to eventually do away with the whole username and passcode business altogether, says Robert Weideman, one of the company’s executive vice presidents. Imagine a system that will let you tell your bank to pay a specific bill at a specific time, with a virtual assistant responding to your voice commands. Frankly, it’s not quite at Star Trek-level responsiveness right now, but Weideman says it would be much more secure than usernames, PINs and passwords. For example, he says, it wouldn’t matter if someone passing by hears your password, because the system adds another fundamental element to password protection: a voice print.”

“That doesn’t change, no matter what words I’m saying. It’s like your fingerprint. It’s that unique,” he explains. “There will come a time where you’re not going to be using PIN and password as your password. You’ll be speaking and touching the device, and that will become your password.”

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