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Passwords have been a necessity since the very first business transaction was completed online. We’ve been so accustomed to them, it’s almost ludicrous to think about what life would be like without them.

According to Microsoft research, the average Internet user has 25 online accounts, and uses 6.5 different passwords to access them. That’s a whole lot of passwords to remember. Although it’s tempting to use only one password across the board, the dangers involved can cost you your livelihood.

As essential as the Internet has become to our daily lives, it resembles the Wild Wild West when it comes to crime. Anonymity reigns and being tech-savvy and without scruples is all anyone really needs to scam, spy and grift.

A Case for Safety
The current model of the password system has been wrought with flaws from Day 1. It is inexpensive for companies to maintain and is somewhat user-friendly for customers. It is recommended passwords be long and complicated— but that makes it even more difficult for Internet users to remember them. Logging in to pay a simple bill ends up being more of a headache than a time-saver. To avoid the hassle, many people opt not to use identity theft protection, choosing easily-hackable passwords (such as password123). Even complex passwords, however, can be intercepted by malware that compromises servers.

Enter Google and Yubico’s solution to the password: a small USB-like device that instantly logs you into all your accounts from whatever machine you might be stationed at. The device, called the Yubikey offers a safer solution for identity theft and hacking concerns because no data is generated during the exchange. The device is small and efficient, and it can be mounted onto a ring, bracelet or another piece of jewelry for both easy access and safe keeping. The Yubikey would allow a user to sign in to a new machine with the tap of a card, sign out without ever worrying about leaving an account open and, most importantly, better protect users from identity theft and other scams.

A Cause for Concern?
The obvious problem with the USB-key system is its integration. How would the keys be acquired and how would the Web-wide transition come to fruition? The software and technology needed would cost businesses tremendously, and the entire infrastructure of the Web would change.
Would we even have a need for services like PayPal if the Yubikey securely signs users into their bank and favorite retailer at the same time?

According to Wired, the resounding response from Web users has been “what happens if I lose it?” The response has, predominately, been “contact your account services immediately.”

In a nutshell, it would be a really big deal if a user lost it. It would be like losing all your important paperwork and your wallet at the same time. That’s a major cause for concern. If the USB key fell into the wrong hands, would it be easy to pilfer the contents?

It’s clear that even the two-step authentication process isn’t cutting it for online security, and something has to change. Is the Yubikey the answer, or is there a better way to keep our technology secure?


Brent Trainer is a tweeting fiend. He loves finding new ways to build on his networking capabilities through apps and new developments in technology.

One Response to “A World Without Passwords: Google’s USB Solution

    Even that kind of technology will have it’s challenges in the future. People will always find a way to get around the security. The idea of having all my important passwords in one place scares me.

    February 13, 2013

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