The days of the tiresome password may be numbered- according to Paypal.The fact is that the way we users typically deal with having multiple passwords for our online accounts makes us too vulnerable to spyware, phishing and identity theft.
Many of us rely on the same password, while many more of us only use three or four passwords.
Ideally, the best password would be at least 16 characters with capitals, numbers and special characters – but you’d never remember it.
So the industry is looking to ditch passwords, and is turning to a variety of solutions, such as voice recognition, key stroke analysis and finger print identification.
Payments firm PayPal is one of those leading the changes, and president David Marcus says the aim is to make the whole process seamless.
“Like magic, you’ll be authenticated, and the payment will go through. We want to move away from passwords, and get to embedded fingerprint scanners on mobile phones.”
“You’re going to start seeing that type of experience later this year, with a mass roll-out in the year to come.”
Earlier this month, PayPal, Lenovo and others announced the formation of the Fido Alliance (Fast Identity Online) to change the way online security checks are carried out.
The idea is that users will be able to select the type of authentication that suits them best – from fingerprint scanning to USB tokens.
“The best protection is the one you don’t see – it’s the one that happens in the background, that verifies your identity accessing your own data,” says Mr Marcus.
For PayPal, solving the password security problem is important because so many people now use it to make purchases – it has 125 million customers in more than 190 countries.
“You shop offline more than you shop online, but in most of these transactions mobile is involved now,” says Mr Marcus.
“As the offline market is 17 times bigger than the online market, there is still huge untapped potential for us.”
The key driver for this has been the way in which customers are increasingly using phones, tablets and other handheld devices to make purchases.
Last year, PayPal recorded $145 billion (£95bn) in total transactions, of which $14 billion were via mobile devices, says Mr Marcus. “But the year before it was less than $4 billion.
All of which should be welcome news for those of us who continually have to email our online retailers for new passwords, because we’ve forgotten the one we asked them for the last time we tried to buy something from them.