Why passwords are failing us -- still!

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Passwords aren't working, and replacement technologies haven't caught on. Why can't we develop a simple way to secure our data?

Passwords weren't the only fail in last week's widely publicized "epic hack" of tech journalist Mat Honan -- Amazon, Apple and, to a lesser extent, Google and Honan himself share the blame.

But passwords played a part in the perfect storm of user, service provider and technology failures that wiped out Honan's entire digital life. As he concluded in his account of the hack, "Password-based security mechanisms -- which can be cracked, reset and socially engineered -- no longer suffice in the era of cloud computing."

The essential problem is this: The more complex a password is, the harder it is to guess, and the more secure it is. But the more complex a password is, the more likely it is to be written down, shared or otherwise stored in an easily accessible location, and therefore the less secure it is. And the killer corollary: If a password is stolen, its relative simplicity or complexity becomes irrelevant.

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