Replacements for Passwords

I have been saying for some time now that passwords by themselves are no longer an effective form of security.  Too easy to hack, too easy to crack.  Currently my go to recommendation is any form of two-factor authentication.  Something like the Google Authenticator App or Yubikey are good choices for your second authentication factor.

On the horizon there are other authentication options that may replace passwords entirely.  Here are a few:

  • DNA – That’s right, in the future we may use DNA as an authentication method.  This would be a form of biometrics, and as such it is neither secret or replaceable, so if it escaped into the wild or was spoofed somehow it would be tough to come up with an alternative.  Nevertheless, Qatar and Estonia are using DNA for identification.
  • Microchips – Instead of smart cards, RSA fobs, or other electronic identification devices, how about a microchip.  It would just take a wave of your hand to log you into a computer or unlock a door.  I would expect there to be some resistance to this idea.
  • Brainwaves – There have been attempts at using brain waves to authenticate, by recording the brain’s activity while looking at a set of images.
  • Behaviorial – This sort of authentication looks at things that we do, such as typing cadence or the way we move and handle our mouse.

Authentication is the second step in the IAA triad (Identification, Authentication, Authorization).  There are five types of authentication – something you know, something you have, something you are, something you do, and somewhere you are.  Passwords are something you know.  Of the four new ideas, two are biometric (something you are), one is something you do, and one is something you have (microchip).  They may be a strong factor in a two-factor authentication system, but I don’t think any of them would be a great solo replacement from passwords.

For the meanwhile, passwords will still be the go to factor for most authentication systems.  Make sure yours are long, strong, and unique to each site.


About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, Bob also conducts security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. Bob also teaches Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. Bob works as an instruction for CompTIA’s non-profit IT-Ready Program in the Twin Cities. IT-Ready is a tuition free 8-week program designed to teach students of all ages the fundamentals of IT support to prepare them for an entry level position in Information Technology Support. Graduates of the classes take the exams to become CompTIA A+ certified. Bob is a frequent speaker at conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. Bob has been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

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