World Password Day 2024: A Secure Future Beyond the Password Paradox

World Password Day 2024: A Secure Future Beyond the Password Paradox

You open your inbox on a busy Monday morning. And there comes the prompt to update your password. It feels like just last week, you went through the rigmarole of creating a complex password with uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And yet, here you are again.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often at home as well. You switch on your streaming app to unwind, and here comes the prompt to enter your password. Of course, you can’t remember what it is because there are so many apps, and you are forced into an internal struggle while you should be unwinding.

That’s when you end up doing the unforgivable. You use the same password for all your accounts at work and at home. You throw in personal information like your date of birth, your dog’s name, and, to mix things up, maybe your favorite special character.

And just like that, you made a hacker happy, somewhere out there.

Password fatigue is a real thing. Remembering so many passwords for a plethora of apps we use for work and home is tiring, and we end up missing the whole point of passwords.

In a recent LinkedIn poll we conducted, 30% admitted that they use the same password for all their accounts. In their World Password Day survey, Bitwarden revealed that 25% of respondents reuse passwords across 20+ sites or apps at home, and 36% include personal information in their passwords.

The truth is, we know this is a risky habit. Yet we take a chance and do it, revealing a huge gap between security best practices and actual practices.

The Password Paradox

According to Statista, the most common password in 2023 was ‘123456’ – an easy target for brute force attacks. Other than making a hacker’s life easy, passwords like this defeat their very purpose. A Techreport survey reveals that 80% of breaches involve weak or stolen passwords.

In the article I wrote commemorating World Password Day last year, I went into great detail about the risks associated with weak passwords. Some of these risks include:

  • Password cracking, in which hackers use automated tools that make thousands of attempts until the right password is discovered. You set ‘123456’, and you reduce the thousands of attempts to less than hundreds.
  • Brute force attacks, in which automated tools try all possible types of character combinations to find the correct password. A password like ‘yourname0000’ does not offer much resistance to such an attack.
  • Dictionary attacks, in which hackers rely on pre-built lists of commonly used passwords, such as those found in the dictionary. When you set easy-to-remember passwords, it becomes that much easier during a dictionary attack.
  • Account takeover, in which a hacker takes over one user account because the user uses the same password for all accounts – a crime most of us are guilty of.

Cyberattacks, as well as hackers, are fast getting smarter. Outsmarting them requires much stronger passwords or getting out of the password paradox altogether.

Strong Defenders for Your Digital Lives

Long, complex passwords might not be the easiest to create or remember, but they are highly important to stay safe against the above attacks. Stronger passwords make these attempts much, much harder, creating an undefeatable fortress for your digital accounts.

However, keeping track of all your strong, complex passwords across different accounts can be daunting. This is where password managers come in handy. They generate, store, and autofill complex passwords for you. They come with several benefits:

  • Convenience:Password managers eliminate the need to remember multiple passwords. They securely store your credentials, simplifying the login process.
  • Enhanced Security:Password managers help prevent unauthorized access by generating strong, unique passwords for each account.
  • Encrypted Storage:Your passwords are encrypted, adding an extra layer of protection.
  • Password Audits:Many password managers can review and update weak or duplicate passwords.
  • Cross-Platform Support:They function seamlessly across multiple devices, ensuring consistent password protection.

Building a Secure Future Beyond Passwords

Passwords have served us well for a long time, but in the face of evolving cyber threats, it’s time to accept that they are past their prime. This is where I will build a compelling case for why passwordless authentication is the future of data security.

When we use passwords, we rely on something we know to verify our identity. Passwordless authentication takes a different approach. It utilizes alternative methods to confirm you are who you say you are, often leveraging:

  • Something you have:This could be your smartphone, a security token, or a wearable device.
  • Something you are:This involves biometric factors like fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans.

A few ways in which passwordless authentication can be achieved are:

  • Biometrics: Many banking apps and smartphones now allow fingerprint or facial recognition for secure logins.
  • Possession Factors:Verifying your identity with a unique code sent via SMS or a mobile app is a common passwordless method.
  • Magic Links:These unique links sent to your email or messaging app grant temporary access upon clicking, eliminating the need for a password login altogether.

We have also entered the era of secure and convenient login experiences through passkeys. Passkeys replace traditional passwords with strong, unique cryptographic key pairs stored securely on your devices.

Passkeys are resistant to brute-force attacks and phishing scams, as there’s no password to steal. They’re also highly convenient. Just a tap or a scan, and you’re in. Passkeys are still under development, but major tech companies like Google and Apple are actively involved in their creation and implementation.

Is Going Passwordless the Only Future?

Passwordless authentication is rapidly gaining traction. It offers a more secure and user-friendly approach to securing our digital lives. As technology advances, we can expect even more robust and convenient passwordless solutions to emerge.

But what about now?

For now, going completely passwordless is not the ideal solution because passwordless authentication is not quite there yet. For example, a biometric login will work only if the scanner works. A malfunctioning scanner will block you out of the system. Passkeys, since they are a new concept, only work on the latest operating systems. This will change, but it will surely take time.

Passwords must serve as the first layer of security instead of the only one. They should be enhanced with 2FA/MFA to give an added layer of security. For those of us who are more comfortable with passwords, password vaults offer a highly secure way of storing them.

No more cognitive dissonance between what needs to be done to secure your digital lives and what is actually being done. No more password fatigue. To stay ahead of evolving cyber threats, all you need to do is use the same advancements in technology to your advantage. Instead of settling for a security tug-of-war, you can win the war altogether.


Yogesh Yagnik
Yogesh Yagnik

Yogesh Yagnik is the Sr. VP Information Security and Data Protection Officer at Anunta. With over three decades in the industry, he has diverse experience in Information Technology, Information Security, Infrastructure Technology Services, and Project Management across industry verticals and geographies.