Can’t Remember Your Password? There’s a Pill for That!

A recent presentation by Jonathan LeBlanc, PayPal’s Global Head of Developer Advocacy, argues that passwords are insecure and need to be replaced. One replacement he suggested is a pill that you swallow containing a microchip. Then, your computer or smartphone would connect to that microchip to authenticate you instead of typing in a password.

The idea of replacing passwords with something you ingest every few days or something you permanently implant in your body isn’t new. Regina Dugan from Motorola made a similar presentation in 2013, describing vitamin authentication pills and electronic tattoos that could replace passwords. Other authentication devices might check your heart’s unique electrical activity or recognize the unique pattern of the veins in your body.

At this point, the “password pills” that these presentations describe aren’t available to buy. It’s an interesting concept for the future that companies are considering. On one hand, swallowing a password pill every day or every few days may be objectionable to some people. On the other hand, maybe the microchip could be combined with other vitamins or medications that a person is already taking regularly, which also could be a good reminder to be current on your medications—if you don’t take your daily vitamin password pill, you can’t check your email or do any online shopping!

Hopefully, these new biometric, embeddable, and ingestible authentication devices will not be a significant obstacle for fiduciaries and family members dealing with a user’s incapacity or death. Current biometric devices, such as the fingerprint reader on Apple iPhone and iPad devices, include a fallback authentication procedure (e.g., a password to type). Companies developing the next generation of these authentication devices should include fallback authentication procedures so that an incapacitated or deceased user’s fiduciaries can access the user’s devices and accounts.

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