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The End Of Passwords?

IT professionals believe they won't exist in 10 years, but this prediction's been on tap for a decade already.

Are we witnessing the death of the password? According to a survey out today from Wakefield Research and SecureAuth, IT practitioners say "Yes." They believe that at the current rate that authentication and authorization technology is progressing, we'll see the end of the password in 10 years.

Among the 300 IT decision-makers surveyed, 91% agree that the traditional password will not exist in a decade. Approximately 66% say they are using authentication methods beyond passwords.

But time will tell whether these gut feelings will have any bearing on reality come 2025.

It's been over a decade now since Bill Gates stood up in front of the audience at the RSA Conference and predicted the end of the password. Since then the market has seen all natures of two-factor authentication and biometrics products flood the market with claims that they'd herald the end of the password: dongles, soft tokens, fingerprint readers, facial recognition, palm vein readers, iris recognition, and even keystroke dynamics--identifying users by their typing patterns. Even as these alternatives and augmenters ebbed and flowed, the password has remained as firmly entrenched as ever.

In fact, as SaaS apps and mobile services proliferate the market, password prevalence is growing. According to a Research and Markets report earlier this spring, the global password management market is growing at a robust 16.33 annual clip and is expected to continue that trajectory through 2019.

Nevertheless, the last couple of years have seen a confluence of activity that could move the needle on the password's eventual demise. With the built-in use of biometrics on Apple iPhones and other mobile devices and Apple's folding in of biometric authentication into its Apple Pay service, it would seem that biometrics have finally entered the mainstream in full effect. According to BI Research, spending on biometrics is likely to grow a stunning 29% in the next five years, hitting $26.8 billion in 2020. Similarly, soft token authenticators and other software-based mobile authentication tools become more secure and easily available due to smartphone ubiquity.

Meantime, password pain only intensifies as the number of passwords that consumers and enterprise users must juggle keeps increasing each years. That's why password management software is growing so much. According to SecureAuth's survey, 1 in 3 IT security professionals report that their users inundate help desk due to frequently forgetting passwords. 

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Kirsten Powell, Senior Manager for Security & Risk Management at Adobe
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5