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Is it time for us to forget passwords?

A report by the World Economic Forum finds that freeing ourselves of passwords will make us safer and organisations more efficient.

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Nearly half of IT help desk costs are estimated to be allocated to password resets
Nearly half of IT help desk costs are estimated to be allocated to password resets

With four out of five global data breaches arising from weak and stolen passwords, new research finds that it is safer not have them. The study proposes that the way forward is with standards-based, cryptographically secure authentication.

 

According to a new report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), cybercrime is set to cost the global economy $2.9m every minute in 2020 and some 80 per cent of these attacks are password-related.

 

Costly to maintain

 

Knowledge-based authentication – whether with PINs, passwords, passphrases – is not only a major headache for users, it is costly to maintain, WEF points out.

 

For larger businesses, it is estimated that nearly half of IT help desk costs are allocated to password resets, with average annual spend for companies at over $1m for staffing alone.

Eliminating use of passwords will actually make individuals and businesses more efficient.

 

“With the growing availability of biometrics and next-generation technology consumers are demanding a better digital experience while wanting to be secure online,” said Adrien Ogee, project lead, Platform for Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity and Digital Trust, WEF.

 

“Better authentication practices are not just possible they are a necessity.”

 

Passwordless authentication does not mean removing all security barriers to a digitalised society. It means harnessing tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to save users time and save company money, notes WEF.

“Relying on passwords as the primary means for authentication no longer provides the security or user experience that consumers demand.”

The report, produced in collaboration with the Fido Alliance, introduces five top passwordless authentication technologies, ready for implementation by global companies. They are biometrics, behavioural analytics, zero-knowledge proofs, QR codes and security keys.

 

“Relying on passwords as the primary means for authentication no longer provides the security or user experience that consumers demand,” added Andrew Shikiar, executive director and chief marketing officer of the Fido Alliance.

 

“The path forward is with standards-based, cryptographically secure authentication that keeps login info secure and private, while providing a fundamentally better user experience.”

 

The Password Authentication: the next breakthrough in secure digital transformation report is part of the Future of Authentication project led by the Platform for Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity and Digital Trust.

 

The research was announced at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting taking place from 21-24 January 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

 

The meeting brings together more than 3,000 global leaders from politics, government, civil society, academia, the arts and culture as well as the media. Convening under the theme, Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World, participants will focus on defining new models for building sustainable and inclusive societies in a plurilateral world.

 

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