Companies look to end password era

PADDY WOOD
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014

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The world's most common online password was revealed this week to be "123456," but tech boffins are working hard to ensure the password's days are numbered.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month, several companies presented their visions of a future where people will use their bodies to verify their identities.

So-called biometric technology broke into the mainstream in late 2013, when Apple put a fingerprint scanner on its newest iPhone, but CES took things a step further.

New York company EyeLock, for example, showed off a computer mouse-sized iris scanner that plugs into the USB port of a computer.

Pick the scanner up, put it the correct distance from your eye, and it will perform a scan to verify your identity and unlock the device.

Because no two irises are the same, the company says the scanner will allow a false entry once every 1.5 million attempts. Scanning both irises extends that to once every 2.25 trillion attempts.

Apple's fingerprint scanner, by contrast, allows a false positive once in every 50,000 attempts, EyeLock says.

Head of EyeLock marketing, Anthony Antolino, says the company is working towards a smaller model that could be embedded within computer cameras, smartphones and tablets.

Meanwhile, Toronto-based company Bionym showed off a bracelet that uses a wearer's heartbeat signature to verify their identity.

Unlike fingerprint and iris recognition, the system doesn't require the user to re-authenticate every time they wish to prove their identity.

As long as the wearer keeps the wristband on, it provides constant authentication which is transmitted to devices via Bluetooth.

While the heartbeat technology is in its early stages, Japanese firm Fujitsu has been working on a system of vein-recognition for several years.

In Las Vegas the company showed off a payment system called PulseWallet that identifies a person by scanning the unique pattern of veins in their hand using near-infrared light.

It then matches the pattern against an encrypted database of pre-registered users.

According to Fujitsu, it will provide one false positive for every 1,250,000 attempts, portending a wallet-less future where in-store purchases are verified via palm scan.

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Biometric technology can't come soon enough if research into the world's most popular passwords, released this week by password management company SplashData, is to be believed.

It found "123456" was most common.

"Password", usually number one, was second.

Others in the top 10 included "abc123," "111111," and "qwerty" - the first six letters across the top row of a standard keyboard.

Andrew Clouston, the Australian founder of the MOGOplus app, which provides access to a user's varied login credentials via a single portal, says people baulk at the number of passwords they're required to remember.

Many end up using the same credentials across all of their accounts, he says.

And though Clouston makes a living helping people manage their passwords, he predicts the writing is on the wall.

"The heartbeat, vein and eye scanner tech from CES, coupled with what we're already seeing with the iPhone fingerprint sensor, shows that the humble password's days are numbered."

- AAP

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