Why does a person need so many electronic identities?

Or better stated, “How can we kill off passwords!”

What is the solution to the growing number and risks of the identities that are now connected with us all? Will a simple identity trust framework be part of such a solution? How will users be able to reduce the number of passwords they have to handle? This article will attempt to explore these questions.

Problem

One of the growing frustrations of the Internet is the number of password-based identities that we, its users, are required to accept. This is leading to a new kind of identity risk. The average Internet user is likely to have upwards of 50 identities. Because we are not very good at remembering that many different unique/strong passwords, we are likely to re-use passwords across different sites. Furthermore, these sites are not all capable of protecting our passwords to the same degree. Worse, we do not regularly keep changing passwords, which serves to exacerbate the problem. How can we effectively manage the security and currency of so many passwords for so many identities? Simply put, we cannot; at least not securely!

Why should I care?

Different Web site suppliers ask us to share different personal details. This enables someone with a criminal intent to harvest our identities by cracking a weak site and then using the identities and passwords obtained to visit different sites and extract further personal details. Often, as a treat for the hacker, we have allowed the Web sites to store our credit card details. Some sites even openly display the credit card numbers to the accredited user. Sites that don't display numbers often allow products and services to be obtained and sent to alternate locations. It won't be long before we see automatic harvesting using this approach -- if it isn't already being used.

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Adrian Seccombe

Network World
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