The past, present, future, (and demise?) of passwords

Humans have used passwords for centuries. Way before Facebook, Netflix & Amazon were encouraging you to include a capital, a number and a special character, the Romans used passwords to differentiate friend from foe.

Fast forward to 1960 when passwords are invented – Fernando J. Corbató, a founding member of Project Mac, pioneered the first variant of password security in his work developing MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System. To keep individual files private, passwords were used so that users could only access their own specific files for their allotted four hours a week (yes, a week).

In the early days, password usage was limited, but as people began to use the internet on a regular basis, they left a trail of sensitive data and information in the process. Hacking as we know it today didn’t really appear until the 80s.

Now, almost everything is online, and we keep our identities safe with a string of digits and letters. But how safe is it? With a number of high-profile data breaches in recent years, there seems to be an intrinsic problem with passwords – with some experts pegging them as the ultimate lose-lose.

Short passwords are easy to remember but are too insecure. Further, almost everyone knows that reusing the same password increases the risk of data attack, but more than half of people do it anyway. If a password is guessed, all accounts are compromised. Customers often rely on the ‘forgot your password’ button which can leave them vulnerable to phishing scams too.

Logging into a user account is the first meaningful step of most customer journeys and far too often, endless ‘forgot your password’ loops put a stinger in what would otherwise be delightful customer journeys.


So, what does the future of passwords hold?

Senior leaders in authentications must build journeys that are seamless, invisible and instant and astute companies are beginning to ditch username-password login experiences in a bid to deliver a future free from ‘forgot your password’ loops. Join our panel of experts from Rakuten, Lloyds Bank, and ForgeRock to understand how you can perfect your ‘digital front’ door, and pre-empt the passwords foreseeable decline.