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Intel Security’s True Key wants to do away with the master password completely

Password managers are popular tools for managing your digital life without having to remember passwords, but they’re usually controlled by one master password that the owner still needs to remember.

If you ever forget this master password, you could have problems accessing your manager software and with that all of your online accounts.

“About 40 to 50% of our support calls for password manager products like [Intel’s] True Key come from users that say they lost their master password,” said Mark Hocking, the general manager of the safe identity business unit at Intel Security. “Based on our whole security model, there’s nothing we can really do if they forget their master password. We don’t store it, we don’t know it, we can’t reset it so unfortunately we have to turn people away.”

Intel Security’s True Key, which uses multi-factor authentication to verify its users, thinks that it has an answer to this conundrum with a new feature it’s launching today.

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Master Password Reset verifies the user through various steps, including biometrics and by identifying your “trusted devices.” When you first sign up for your True Key account, the software logs your trusted devices that it recognizes you are logging in from. You can’t reset anything from some other computer or phone.

Alternatively it will ask for a biometric factor where it verifies your fingerprint or facial scan if you provided this data before losing your master password. Finally, the third option requires you verify yet another trusted device or if you don’t have more than one trusted device, you’ll need to verify yourself through a registered email account.

It can end up being a lengthy enough process, but one that is only intended as a last resort if you ever forget your master password.

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“That enables us to get around this major adoption hurdle that we have with consumers around remembering their master password and truly enables us to tell a customer that you can now forget all your passwords. Leave managing your passwords to us.”

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Hocking declined to reveal specific user numbers for True Key except to say that it’s in the hundreds of thousands and that about “60 or 70% of users are enrolling their face” as a biometric.

“When we started this project a couple of years ago, one of the key things that we wanted to see from an industry perspective was the consumer adoption of biometrics. That certainly has started to happen, obviously it’s most notable with Apple putting a Touch ID on their devices. That’s got a lot of people comfortable with using fingerprint,” he said. “We’re able to provide a facial recognition capability that works across all of these devices and any device that has a camera. We’re trying to make it more pervasive and available to people even if they have a system that is a couple of years old.”

Biometrics are the leading alternative to traditional passwords and one of the few practical options we have seen. Apple’s Touch ID has brought it to the fore while Microsoft continues to refine Windows Hello, its facial recognition login function. A recent market trends report from Gartner predicted that by 2019, at least 57% of smartphones sold will use fingerprint or other biometric authentication, but adoption may slow down when it comes using the features in more applications, like the smart home.