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Login security & passwords – yesterday, today and tomorrow

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

The act of “logging in” – that is, gaining access to some private area in a shared space – has been with us since the early 60s with the introduction of time-sharing computers, albeit confined in those days to very limited professional circles. However, with the use of the public internet as a communication and social medium and the growth of the web as a platform for commerce in the past twenty years, remembering login names and passwords for access to all our online resources is as commonplace as remembering the birthdays of our loved ones. While we might remember at most ten birthdays (with the rest written down in calendars and diaries), the average person has accumulated, based on an anonymized survey of its enterprise accounts by the popular password manager vendor LastPass, about 191 online accounts!

Lest this seem like an absurdly large number, consider all the professional accounts as well as numerous personal ones accumulated over one’s online lifetime, many of which are quickly set up for some online purchase or commenting at an informational web site and then forgotten or rarely visited. These days it seems that even the slightest online activity requires creating an account and signing in. Thus, it is not surprising that most people reuse the same login credentials (user name and password) across multiple sites. Security experts have long warned against this obvious vulnerability, but who can blame the average user for choosing an easy path to manage this increasing burden of remembering multiple passwords. (Some recent statistics suggests that only 22% of online users in the US use different credentials for each online account.)

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