Online Safety in the wake of Cyber Crime: The Future Of The Password

Worst Passwords of 2013

Your computer is only as secure as its weakest link — your password. Reports By Bobby Emamian of Forbes

And once some malicious hacker cracks it, he can access whatever he wants within your account, as we saw with the celebrity iCloud photo leak and, more recently, the supposed Gmail account hack.

It no longer matters how many special characters and numbers you set in your password; a skilled password cracker can eventually decipher it. And with wireless connectivity being built into everything from appliances to cars to jewelry, it’s going to take more than passwords to maintain security moving forward.

The Internet of (Secure) Things

Passwords have become more personal and unique to you and your device. Look at Touch ID, for example. It’s been utilized by the iPhone as a means to unlock the home screen for a while now, but with the release of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8, the technology has been opened up to third-party developers.

App developers can now integrate fingerprint identification throughout their apps, where you’ll be able to participate in much more in-app activity with a tap of your finger, including logging in and even making purchases.

As these developers work toward Touch ID payment methods, a new lane is forming as race-savvy entrepreneurs are competing to develop a mobile-only payment method similar to the way PayPal revolutionized online payments.

Possibilities are also open to allow for a gesture-based password system, which is currently used on Android-based devices. Essentially, this would create a digital version of a physical signature, which can feel more personal and secure for the user.

Behind-the-Scenes Operations

With things like Touch ID, technology becomes essentially connected to your body, responding to your touch and the specific way you swipe a passcode. There’s an entirely new level of personalization attached to security now, and people may begin to think of passwords in this way.

And while you’re ultimately responsible for your personal password, credit agencies, law enforcement, service providers, OS developers, and everyone in between are taking steps toward securing data, as well.

Apple filed 23 patents to update its “Find My iPhone” feature with Apple Pay, which stores secure information and disables payments in the event that the phone is stolen. Apple won’t receive any transaction information from the retailer, nor will the retailer be provided with the unlock code.

Additionally, Google and many other companies have integrated two-step verification methods — which have long been used by military and financial institutions — into their systems. This didn’t stop more than 5 million Gmail passwords from being leaked online, however.

If users did have two-step turned on, they would still be safe even if their password were leaked. Anyone who tried to access their account using the leaked password still wouldn’t have access to the user’s phone, where the security code is sent when accessing email from a new computer, preventing the hacker from getting into his Gmail.

Integrating fingerprint technology into this verification method creates a system where the only number being input is randomly generated and temporarily good.

Swiping and Touch ID commands haven’t been perfected, but with giants like Apple, Samsung, Nike, and Magellan creating smartwatches, Google prepping to spread Glass around the globe, and touch screens finding their way onto everything, gestures will be the passwords of the future.

The Future Is Now

Integrating gestures and motion-based security is seamless both from a developmental standpoint and the end user’s perspective, as Swype and gesture locking are popular among Android users.

Biometrics, facial recognition and fingerprint identification are being explored as more secure methods to store our personal information than archaic methods like magnetic strips and embossed cards, showcasing our account numbers to anybody looking.

“We’re totally reliant on the exposed numbers and the outdated and vulnerable magnetic stripe interface,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, attacking the dominance of credit cards. “It’s no wonder that people have dreamed of replacing these for years, but they’ve all failed.”

Even as passwords become more secure and new innovations come out to move beyond passwords, there’s always the possibility of human error. Hackers can guess your email and send a link that could mimic an Apple link, ask you to verify or change your password, and then steal that information. With all of these security threats, you still have to be careful when creating security measures and diligent in maintaining that security.

However you decide to secure your information, it’s becoming clear that the old-school password is on its last legs. In the future, instead of laughing at how many people secure their private and personal accounts with things like “password” and “1234,” we’ll mock those securing their email and bank accounts with a middle finger.

Bobby Emamian is the co-founder and CEO of Prolific Interactive, a strategy-led mobile agency headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in San Francisco, as well.