The new Windows 10 feature that enables users to bypass wi-fi passwords has ignited a huge debate over whether it's a good idea. In a nutshell, it allows users to log on to a wi-fi network without the password if that person is in their contacts. In fact, most of Windows 10 is designed around password alternatives. But it isn't only Windows that's doing it. More and more companies are looking for password alternatives.
It's almost a given that most people do not pick good passwords for their accounts. To add to that, numerous security breaches over the past few years have put sensitive information in jeopardy. A good password is both easy to remember and hard to guess. There aren't many passwords that do fit, so most people choose something easy to remember. Passwords like "123456" and "password" have been for years the most common ones. While it's easy to understand why -- witness the trouble many people have remembering phone numbers -- it makes accessing data online child's play.
Various automated password programs and password supplements, like two-step authentication, have been around for some time. Windows 10, however, has the end of passwords by using the FIDO system. The system is designed around biometric features, like fingerprints, voice, and eye scan. It has a supplementary feature that is a more elaborate variation on the two-step authentication system that uses a USB device that is unique to the user and required to be inserted along with any passwords.
Windows isn't the only company trying it. Mastercard recently started a program where 500 users will have to either give face scans or fingerprints instead of passwords. Apple Pay and Android Pay work on similar principals, but instead replace debit and credit cards. The information is stored on an app in a device, and touching a fingerprint to the scanner completes the transaction. Unlike a standard credit card, it can't be used by anyone but the original owner. Of course, this also means it can't be given to someone else to use in that person's absence.
While the technology exists, it's currently expensive. McDonalds and Walgreens currently support Apple Pay in all their stores, but most companies aren't able to use the new authentication systems. Users are supportive of such measures, but over 80 percent of iPhone users currently do not use Apple Pay. Windows 10's embrace of such devices could be the big shift that would lead to the technology becoming more common -- and less expensive. So, while it might not be the end of passwords after all, it's a start.
[Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images]