The future of authentication

Tools

To ring in the 2013, Bank Technology News asks this question: What will replace passwords?

It's a question that people have been asking in some form for several years. There seems to be broad agreement that the future is clear: Biometrics continue to advance in all its forms, including fingerprints, palm prints, face recognition, voice recognition, and retina recognition.

My favorite remains the heart beat biometric approach, which calls for unique passwords to be generated from a user's heartbeat. This technology translates a human heartbeat into an encryption key by using an electrocardiograph readout that captures a unique "signature." 

I certainly agree that biometrics represents a good approach, but the industry as a whole would have to admit that it is fairly far in the future. In the here-and-now, we're left with more conventional approaches.

All agree that the timeworn password, often sticky-noted to computer monitors, is reaching the end of its productive life. We're undergoing a slow transition that involves what one expert calls a step-up approach. The idea is to continue to add to the authentication process and fo foil the ever clever bad guys. Two-factor authentication is now common. We'll likely be at three- and four-factor authentication soon with all manner of dongle-like tools.

At some point, this will take a new service aimed at rationalizing it all. People can only keep up with so many tokens and other customized devices, smartphone apps and different approaches before it starts to seem like the current password problem tenfold over. The future can't get here fast enough.

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