Perimeter
3/18/2013
12:42 PM
Gunnar Peterson
Gunnar Peterson
Commentary
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Your Password Is The Crappiest Identity Your Kid Will Ever See

Ever watch an episode of 'Mad Men' and see everyone smoking? Some kid in 2045 will look at their parent and ask, did you really have to enter a password that many times?

It's easy to look back a few decades or centuries and wonder, "Geez, how could they have been so stupid/racist/unhealthy/shortsighted?" For example, watch "Mad Men" and you'll see Don Draper downing a half-dozen martinis at lunch and smoke heaters all day. What were you thinking, Don? It's easy to find fault.

What is hard is to think about what are we doing right now, and that in 30 years people will say: "What the heck were they thinking?" For me an easy one here is passwords.

Some day, our kids and grandkids will say, "Can you believe the weakness in those ancient identity protocols?

"Can you believe they built up a whole digital society that rested on such a weak foundation?

"Can you believe the flow of power plants, electricity, water, weapons systems, healthcare services, money, and social interaction were built on top of protocols that were easily spoofed, stolen, and replayed?"

Some wiser soul will interject: "Never underestimate the power of inertia. It has a force all its own. After all, we've long wanted to swap out our algae-based fuel for space-based solar fuel, but the entrenched algaecrats keep holding us back. Why is that taking so long?" Everyone nods.

Some food for thought from this tweet by @techwithintent: "Your awesome smart phone is the crappiest tech your child will ever see. It's their Commodore 64."

The same applies to our current identity systems. They are the crappiest protocols our kids will ever see.

It seems certain to me that future generation will behold the imbalance of the sheer width and breath of the digital systems that we have managed to connect versus the weakness of security mechanisms with which we have tried to protect them; they will judge these actions crazy in retrospect. Enjoyable to get "solutions" to market quickly, but hazardous to our collective health in the long run. We blame users for password issues (you reused your password?), but this is no better than the Surgeon's General warning on a box of cigarettes: "May be Hazardous to Your Health." May?

Password strength? Security questions? Sounds like smoking low-tar cigarettes to me.

We know what eventually happens to the world of "Mad Men." We don't know what yet happens in identity and when, but it seems certain that passwords' future is going up in smoke, and people will wonder what took so long.

Gunnar Peterson is a Managing Principal at Arctec Group Gunnar Peterson (@oneraindrop) works on AppSec - Cloud, Mobile and Identity. He maintains a blog at http://1raindrop.typepad.com. View Full Bio

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