Some tech analysts are talking today about a Google move that will finally work to break the back of the universal password problem, a major bugbear for users and firms alike.
Steven Shankland reports at CNet that Google is preparing to launch functionality that lets users log into many Google websites using their Android phones.
One reason this is important, Shankland points out, is that the newer phones have biometric functionality, which means that users can log into various platforms without a password using their fingerprint.
This is big news – passwords are one of the biggest bottlenecks in Internet use, and one of the most profound convenience, privacy and security issues in the technology world.
“In case you hadn’t got the memo, passwords are awful,” Shankland writes. “The ones that are most secure happen to be the ones that are hardest to type and remember. That’s even leaving aside the issue of the many breaches that have splattered passwords and other personal data all over the internet. Google’s use of Android as an authentication device is an important step beyond password problems.”
Google is using a standard called Fast Identity Online or FIDO, where an authentication standard called FIDO2 provides this type of secure authentication system.
Multifactor authentication has been evolving for several years. Banks are using it, too – it’s easier to verify a user by pinging a smart phone while they’re doing desktop activity than by making them enter convoluted combinations of numbers letters and special characters.
The Google news shows how companies may finally get beyond the password – and in reality, it’s something that analysts have been talking about for a while.
“We’re on the cusp of a new era that will revolutionize the time-worn, all-too-porous password-only approach to authentication,” wrote Patrick Houston at the Symantec blog back in January of 2018. “We’re about to witness a death, and no one but the bad guys will wail. The end is nigh for password-only authentication, the anemically weak and long outdated, mainstay security measure that’s been a pox to consumers, companies, and governments. What is going to deliver coup de grace? Biometrics.”
Look for a lot more of this kind of news as we evolve beyond the traditional password system, many of us with a sigh of relief.