Assigning passwords to computer history

Friday, 27 February 2004, 1:40 AM EST

Computer users disagree about many things -- PC versus Macintosh, Windows versus Linux. But nearly everyone agrees that using passwords to secure digital data is a lousy idea. They're hard for users to remember, but easy for information thieves to crack. And each of us needs dozens of them, for every computer network and website we use.

Even Bill Gates hates them, and he can afford to pay someone to type his passwords for him. "There's no doubt that over time people are going to rely less and less on passwords," the chairman of the software company Microsoft Corp. said in a speech Tuesday. "It just doesn't meet the test for anything you really want to secure."

But where's the alternative? Microsoft is opting for an expensive, muscular approach designed with the help of a leading computer security firm located in Massachusetts. As for the rest of us, there's a new wave of products that replace passwords with fingerprints.

By Hiawatha Bray at TechNewsWorld.

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