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Are you tired of remembering a different password for each of your online accounts? Or worried about re-using the same password too many times? Chill, you’re not alone. Tech experts concede that traditional passwords are annoying, outmoded and too easily hacked.
Yahoo and Microsoft have come up with a solution. Yahoo says it can text temporary passwords to users’ phones each time they want to sign into their Yahoo accounts, while the Microsoft says it is building facial-recognition and fingerprint-identification technology into Windows 10, the new computer operating system coming this summer, so users can log on with their fingertip or face. The two approaches drew different reviews.
What you should do:
New day, new password
Convenience and security. That’s what Yahoo is promising users who choose to receive a single-use password on demand — sent by text message to their mobile phone each time they want to sign into their Yahoo account. Once you opt into the program, there’s no more need to create or memorize a password for Yahoo’s email or other services.
Experts, however, says it’s not a good move.
Tim Erlin, risk strategist for the cybersecurity firm Tripwire says, that Yahoo just made it easier for attackers to compromise an account.
He further said, temporary passwords can fall into the hands of anyone who steals the phone. While most phones can be set to require a separate password to unlock the home screen, many people don’t bother to do so. Phones can also be infected with malware that intercepts or copies text messages.
Yahoo’s on-demand option is a step backward from another alternative the company offers, known as two-factor authentication. With that option, users must provide both a traditional password and a one-time code that is texted to their phones. That’s considered stronger because a hacker would need both to get into a user’s account.
Yahoo security chief Alex Stamos agrees that two-factor authentication is stronger. But many people don’t use it, he said in an online post defending against critics. Instead, people too often recycle short passwords that are easier to type, especially on small phone screens, but also easy for hackers to guess.
Since most online services let users reset passwords by sending a text or email to their phones, users are already vulnerable if they lose their device, Stamos argued.
The concept of logging in by scanning your fingerprint or face used to seem like sci-fi. But the future is here.
Microsoft said this week that it is building biometric authentication technology into the next version of its Windows software, so that users can unlock computers or phones with their face, iris or fingerprint. The devices must have a fingerprint reader or a high-end camera with infrared sensors, which are becoming more common.
It’s too early to know if Microsoft’s system will be effective or gain wide acceptance. But alternatives to passwords are definitely needed
Windows 10 users may also be able to use their face or fingerprint to sign into other online accounts. Notably, Google already offers facial recognition as an option for unlocking Android phones, although it’s not widely used. Early versions were criticized as unreliable, but the technology has improved.
Apple and Samsung offer fingerprint identification to unlock some phones; Apple also uses it to authorize purchases through Apple Pay. Too many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and they are routinely stolen by hackers.