Passwords are irritating, we need something else

How many passwords do you have? It seems that the answer to this question is either ‘one’ or ‘I don’t know, too many.’ The problem, of course, is that we need to be vigilant and up to date. And somehow remember dozens of login details. You have to wonder how many people a day click on the ‘forgot your password’ button next to the ‘enter site’ button. An embarrassing number. And then of course you have to enter a new password, so if you are in the ‘one password’ camp you are quickly no longer in that camp and heading for the ‘I don’t know, too many’ camp as you have to remember two, and then three, and then four.

Sites vary, and can cause a complete lack of consistency in the login process. One process that I am still struggling to complete after several months, is the portal for my new broadband provider. One time it will tell me that I have already registered, another it will throw me out and ask me for my mother’s maiden name. You would have thought that remembering your mother’s maiden name is easy. Indeed it is, but when I was prompted to provide it initially, it said that hyphens are not allowed in that field. My mother’s maiden name is hyphenated. And for the life of me I cannot remember whether I ran the two names together without the hyphen, entered one or the other, or did something different. Occasionally I have another attempt. So far I have failed.

Even using some great password vaults such as my1login which are about as secure as you can get still rely on me, the customer, remembering to update the vault when I change a password. Which I did yesterday for my personal email account. This was after I received an email from myself offering me insurance for my dog. I declined and went and changed my password. And then changed it on my laptop, and then my handset, and then my tablet and finally in my1login.

It is a nightmare and I do not think it is particularly helpful when customers are told they need to get better at it. In this interview, Gary Kovacs basically says that it is not worth having smart devices if you have dumb people using them. He also says that service providers need to make their privacy and security rules and processes a lot more understandable, so he almost redeemed himself. Let us hope that he is not under the illusion that enterprises are brilliant at security – according to Gartner, 75 percent of enterprise apps are insecure, and apparently 97 percent of the apps in the top two app stores have been hacked. My1login itself was set up when its founder was doing some consultancy for his old – best left unnamed – telco employer and was shocked at how many screens either had a post-it note with the words ‘Password1’ on it, or a post-it note with the password on it, on the underside of the keyboard.

We live in an era of cyber attacks and we will all be hacked to greater or lesser effect on our lives. It is a clear and current focus and there is a great opportunity for someone or someones to solve it. Whether it be a way of ‘centralising’ all your own data and logins into something simple and intuitive, or whether it is in new ways of authenticating identity, such as Apple’s Touch ID, I am not sure. Even that is questionable, although nice to use. The other evening my wife logged in to her iPhone using her nose….having set up her nose as if it was her thumb. Of course, fingerprints as ID is nothing new, they have been using that for financial transactions in Malawi for over ten years.

Someone – your customers need help.

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve become so paranoid with all the site security breaches happening that I went and changed all my 400+ passwords to unique 12 character ones generated by my central password management software located in the cloud, somewhere. I now only have one password to remember and that’s the one to get access to all the others, but if I ever forget that one, or it gets hacked I’m dead.

    I love Apple’s Touch ID but I recently discovered one problem with it. If you are working with cement with no gloves on it tends to wear of your thumb print off or cracks your thumb so badly your iPhone won’t recognise it!

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