Scenario: People interacting with organisations on the basis of a knowledge or memory based identifiers and authenticators

This is a currently standard situation of identity management: it involves, for instance, telling a customer number to a telephone operator of a mail order company; typing in a pin code at the bank or ATM; the combination of username and passwords to access online services. This form of authentication is increasingly problematic because of the ever larger set of online transactions where authentication through a password is required. IT-consultant Calum McLeod coined the term password overload syndrome to describe that we all have too many pincodes and passwords to remember. There are various commercial password managers, like 1Password or Password Safe that enable their customers to store all their different passwords, and unlock them on every online platform they use, for every service they want through entering one master password.

What is expected or explored for the future

  • Given that this method of authentication is usually considered neither very convenient, nor very safe, it is sometimes expected that it will merge with other authenticators, and disappear in the long run. There is a whole genre of YouTube films, How to order a pizza in the future, that ridicules the excesses of this kind of authentication and takes on the risks of connected databases in the same movement.
  • Another road predicted for the future comes from making memory based authentication easier: US researchers have shown how good authentication questions can be secure and easy, if they are based on questions about life long private preferences; one should think of a combination of the kind of questions that are often asked on dating sites.

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