Moving beyond passwords

Monday, 8 December 2003, 2:56 PM EST

Since the early days of terminal-based computing in the 1960s, agencies controlled access to mainframe systems through passwords. This was usually true whether the system had a classified weapons database or a cafeteria lunch menu.

If security requirements were high, agency officials would use other tactics. They might create stricter password policies, such as replacing expired ones every month, or they might use physical access controls, such as placing the terminal in a locked room or beyond a security checkpoint.

Yet both approaches have problems. Studies show that as password policies become more complex, users are more prone to write passwords down, compromising security. And although a locked door certainly offers some protection, it limits users to specific machines in specific locations.

[ Read more ]

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