In an effort to help individuals secure their digital identities, Yahoo took a leap forward introducing “on-demand” passwords, perhaps the first step towards eliminating passwords altogether. SMS messaging is playing a central role in this development.
Several industry leading tech companies swear by two-factor authentication as the best alternative to regular password protection. Yahoo’s new approach is similar in that user will be sent unique, time sensitive codes through an app or text message when they wish to access their private account.
However, Yahoo users who sign up for this service will become some of the first to do away with primary password protection. When a user wants to log into their account, they’ll simply be sent a password directly to their mobile device—no primary password required.
For some people, this is a great step forward. Having to remember multiple unique passwords can be daunting, especially without the assistance of a password manager. Yahoo’s new feature eliminates the burden of both.
But don’t get too excited just yet. Users will still be responsible for a few things, including: keeping a charge on their mobile device, ensuring signal access, and protecting the mobile device from other compromises. If those things are manageable, the service is easy to set up and simple to use.
Creating better account security is a hot topic for many tech companies aside from Yahoo. The FIDO Alliance in cooperation with Google and Microsoft are pushing for even further measures to get rid of passwords, experimenting with biometricks like fingerprint and eye scans—the final frontier of protecting our digital identities. Yahoo brings their one-step authentication to the table while these other technologies require further development.
Yahoo deserves credit for attempting to solve one of the greatest threats on the Internet. Yahoo also updated its end-to-end GPG email encryption plugin back in August. A video posted to YouTube shows users easy comparisons on how to get the plugin working with GPGTools, an exclusive suite fro Mac OS X desktops.
Unfortunately, this feature will not be available for everyone until the end of 2015. What’s more, the system won’t be enabled on every email. Instead, Yahoo intends the use of this particular security feature will be reserved for sensitive content.
Whether or not Yahoo’s new on-demand service will take off is yet to be seen. Few would argue that more security isn’t needed when it comes to protecting personal information on the Internet. But until users activate this feature, it does little else than nothing.