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Google Declares War on the Password

by ROBERT MCMILLAN, Wired.com  |  published on January 20, 2013

Want an easier way to log into your Gmail account? How about a quick tap on your computer with the ring on your finger?

This may be closer than you think. Google’s security team outlines this sort of ring-finger authentication in a new research paper, set to be published late this month in the engineering journal IEEE Security & Privacy Magazine. In it, Google Vice President of Security Eric Grosse and Engineer Mayank Upadhyay outline all sorts of ways they think people could wind up logging into websites in the future — and it’s about time.

2012 may have been the year that the password broke. It seemed like everyone on the internet received spam e-mail or desperate pleas for cash — the so-called “Mugged in London” scam — from the e-mail accounts of people who had been hacked. And Wired’s own Mat Honan showed everyone just how damaging a hack can be.

The guys who hacked Honan last August deleted his Gmail account. They took over his Twitter handle and posted racist messages. And they remote-wiped his iPhone, iPad, and laptop computer, deleting a year’s worth of e-mails and photographs. In short, they erased his digital life.

Passwords are a cheap and easy way to authenticate web surfers, but they’re not secure enough for today’s internet, and they never will be.

Google agrees. “Along with many in the industry, we feel passwords and simple bearer tokens such as cookies are no longer sufficient to keep users safe,” Grosse and Upadhyay write in their paper.

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