The password is a remnant of a simpler Internet. Once a reasonably effective means to shield your various online accounts from unwanted intrusion, it’s become all but a smokescreen, a promise of security broken time and time again. That’s probably why technology behemoths like Twitter and Yahoo have launched crusades of their own against the password, but Microsoft is the largest yet to join the fray. Joe Belifore, corporate vice president of the operating systems group, took to the Windows Blog today to announce Windows Hello, a biometric authentication system bound for Windows 10 on phones, tablets, and PCs.
Windows Hello incorporates face, iris, and fingerprint detection into a single, unified replacement for pass codes. On devices with the requisite hardware, signing in to a Windows 10 machine will require no more than placing your digit on a fingerprint reader, or holding your face up to a webcam.
But unlike fallible mechanisms found on other platforms, Hello is leveraging technology like Intel’s RealSense 3D camera to defeat all but the most determined would-be infiltrators (current computers, which lack RealSense, won’t support face recognition). All biometric information is locked behind “enterprise-grade” security, encrypted asynchronously. In fact, Microsoft says Hello will meet the requirements of sectors like government, defense, financial, and health care, which require higher levels of security.
Hello goes beyond logins. With Passport, Microsoft hopes to replace the passwords you use for applications, websites, and intranet login with the aforementioned biometric data. Passport isn’t new – it’s a feature of Microsoft’s online accounts – but the company will soon open it to IT managers, developers, and web authors. Belifore says that Passport will eventually makes its way to “your favorite commerce sites, email and social networking services, financial institutions, business networks and more.”
Biometric hardware isn’t without its issues of its own, which is why Windows Hello will use PINs as a fallback. Divorcing ourselves of passwords entirely isn’t yet entirely feasible, it would seem. Still, Hello isn’t a bad start.