Are facial features the future of passwords?

Passwords have been around for centuries. When Julius Caesar was fighting a war in Europe, they used a password at the gate before soldiers could enter the camp. In those days, you did not have government issued Photo IDs. The enemy could kill a soldier, wear this uniform, steal his horse and penetrate the their camp. Having a password allowed camps to only grant entry to the soldiers who knew the password. With the advent of the internet, we have used passwords as an authentication mechanism for everything from email and online shopping sites to banking.

It is becoming easier for hackers to break passwords and hijack accounts. We have resorted to using more complex passwords than we cannot remember, and relying on password manager apps to store them. This is becoming very inconvenient. To solve this problem, many companies are working on the next generation of passwords. EyeVerify has developed eye-detection software that detects eye characteristics using a picture from the camera, and generates a password based on the characteristics. They call it the EyePrint. They also detect features like vein patterns in the eyes. So when you want to login to a service, you can simply snap a picture of your eyes and be authenticated. MasterCard is also working on a similar approach. They are using selfies for authentication. This involves analyzing more facial features like position of eyes, nose, mouth, etc. MasterCard believes that this is the future of passwords.

These technologies have its flaws as well. For example, the eye detection software might not work well if you are in a room without lights, or if you have red eyes due to lack of sleep. But its a start. MasterCard’s selfie software might also fail if your appearance changes. It could be things like growing a beard or mustache, or even characteristics like natural aging. Hackers could also find your selfies on Instagram, print them out and hold them in front of a camera to authenticate as you. These are all possible ways to break the system. But again, its a pretty good start at coming up with alternatives to passwords.

As humans, we recognize each other by seeing faces. Our brain processes facial features when we see someone, and then identifies the features to a person. When the person looks slightly different, we can immediately notice the difference. If they look like someone else, we can tell, as our brain compares their features to the features of someone else. While these technologies have its issues, passwords do as well. Its time for the next generation of passwords, and they will likely be your facial features.