Google and Microsoft, two of the biggest technology companies in the world, are pushing towards a password-free future. These tech giants want to replace passwords with fingerprint scans and facial recognition technology.
At the recently concluded RSA conference, both the companies previewed their efforts to help internet platforms to get rid of password through Android smartphones and Windows PCs. At the conference on Friday, Google demoed how the fingerprint sensor on any Android smartphone could be revamped for PayPal’s login process. The goal here is to end the process where a user needs to enter a password to approve a purchase via PayPal. With the revamped process, Android users can simply scan their fingerprint and PayPal will authenticate the transaction.
The same feature can also be achieved on a PC but by scanning your face. Microsoft demonstrated how its Windows Hello feature can be used to grant access to a PayPal by authenticating users via the computer’s webcam. The feature will read the facial features of users and allow payments on the platform.
Fingerprint scanning is widely available on Android smartphones, including affordable devices that retail at under Rs 10,000. Facial recognition is being added as a feature on most Windows PCs as part of the Windows Hello recognition system. While these technologies are not new, there is need to encourage the most popular websites to integrate these features. At the RSA Conference, Google and Microsoft announced push towards simpler and secure way of granting login access as members of Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance.
“We all know that passwords are a problem,” Brett McDowell, the FIDO Alliance’s executive director, told PCMag. McDowell told the publication that weak passwords or stolen passwords have been responsible for 81 percent of all data breaches in 2016. The clumsy and hard to remember passwords lead to a usability problem and FIDO 2.0, a new standard for login systems will solve these issues.
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The FIDO 2.0 standard does away with passwords for devices like smartphones and PCs and now supports biometrics to unlock an online account. The standard will scan fingerprint or face to verify your identity and then generates a unique private key that can unlock an internet account that the user wants to access. The switch from passwords to biometrics will ensure that the website never learns or stores your private key.
Both Google and Microsoft are pushing the FIDO 2.0 standard and are preparing to enable the feature within their own browsers. Microsoft said that next release of Windows 10 will natively support the standard. FIDO Alliance members plan to offer help to companies to migrate their platforms to a password-less login system. It is possible that passwords will go away for good sometime in 2019.