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Have you seen the “Out of Your Password Minder” segment from The Ellen Degeneres Show? It’s been passed around for the last couple months and recently landed in my inbox. A colleague had been shown it during a training session with one of our technology partners.
I got a really good laugh out of it. But the more I thought about it, I began to see a larger point. The infomercial for the (unfortunately real) product, Password Minder, wasn’t just the butt of Ellen’s joke; it provided excellent social commentary on how people behave with regard to password security.
For those of us who deal with information security on a daily basis - and particularly IAM technologies such as Single-Sign-On (SSO) and Federated Identity - the humor is certainly not lost.
However, if you’re an information security professional at a business whose employees are exhibiting some of the behaviors portrayed in the infomercial, you’re probably not laughing. I just hope you’re not considering solving the password sprawl challenges by placing a bulk order of Password Minders for your organization.
In fact, there’s been a lot of buzz lately about the death of the password, including the rise of Social Identity (or “Social Sign-On” as discussed in Robert Block’s recent post). There have been a few other great articles of late discussing the evolution and next generation of passwords.
Gunnar Peterson at Dark Reading published a short article, “Your Password Is the Crappiest Identity Your Kid Will Ever See,” summarizing the situation with a humorous shot at the growing obsolescence of passwords. When you consider that your smartphone has the processing power to generate all of the various combinations of an eight character password in only a few hours, you realize that this assertion by Peterson won’t even take that long: “Some kid in 2045 will look at their parent and ask, did you really have to enter a password that many times?”
In addition to the growth of Federated Identity, which is already here and generally accepted, here are a few concepts that seem to be gaining momentum:
Passwords are still the mainstay and probably won’t be going anywhere in the immediate future. Yet, how prophetic was Bill Gates in his 2004 RSA keynote when he said, “There is no doubt that over time, people are going to rely less and less on passwords. People use the same password on different systems, they write them down and they just don't meet the challenge for anything you really want to secure."
Let’s just hope the good folks at Password Minder don’t sell a lot of units before the market finds a suitable replacement.