Microsoft aims to kill the password

June 29, 2015 - 

According to a recent CNN Money report, Microsoft has an ambitious goal for Windows 10: The software vendor projects that it can install its new Windows 10 operating system into 1 billion devices by 2017.

A recent study of IT professionals found that nearly three-quarters of businesses plan on installing Windows 10 within two years of its July 2015 release. The report states 60 percent of IT departments have tested the new Microsoft operating system, and 40 percent plan to deploy Windows 10 this year. If the survey is correct, and 73 percent of businesses do deploy Windows 10 by 2017, that would make the operating system the most quickly installed version of Windows to date. Despite its current popularity, only 60 percent of businesses installed Windows 7 within 24 months of its launch.

The quick adoption of this software will effectively mean the eventual demise of the password. As reported previously in BiometricUpdate, a hallmark of Microsoft’s new operating system will be a biometric verification system for password-free identification and authentication.

Entitled, “Hello”, the system will allow users to unlock their phone, tablet or PC by scanning their face, eyeball or fingerprints. A main difference is that with Windows Hello, the biometric security feature will be supported natively, and Microsoft claims that Windows 10 will support existing fingerprint readers. Windows Hello requires specialized hardware, including a fingerprint reader, illuminated IR sensor or other biometric sensors.

However, at this point, only one company, Intel, manufactures the RealSense 3D depth cameras that Microsoft has demonstrated in conjunction with its Hello technology. While Intel’s cameras are widely available, only 15 different PC models will support the technology at launch.

As a consequence, industry analysts do not expect that passwords will be imminently eliminated after its release. The eventual adoption of new computers and camera-based peripherals for the PC, along with increasing uptake of updated Windows Phones will mean a measured but continuous increasing use of the technology.

In addition to Windows 10 not requiring passwords for login, the new operating system will henceforth not send user passwords over the Internet to log into sites or mobile apps. Instead, Windows 10 will have a new feature called “Passport” which will send out the user’s identity over the Internet without also sending a password that could be easily compromised.

Windows 10 will ask users to verify that they have possession of their device before it authenticates on their behalf, with a PIN or Windows Hello on devices with biometric sensors. Once authenticated with “Passport”, users will be able to instantly access a growing set of Web sites and services across a range of industries, including favorite commerce sites, e-mail and social networking services, along with banks, financial institutions, business networks and more.

“Passport” will also work with thousands of enterprise Azure Active Directory services at launch, and will also have industry-leading security and identity protection for enterprises, so they can deploy new Windows 10 devices with hardware necessary to use Windows Hello, enabling enterprise-grade protection of the device and more secure password-free authentication to enterprise line of business applications.

Microsoft’s “Hello” and “Passport” will be key technologies to watch as computer- and mobile-based biometric authentication systems evolve.

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at BiometricUpdate.com and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.