The future of passwords and cybersecurity

Fingerprints, face recognition, and your subconscious all have one thing in common: they are changing the world of passwords.

Every day, we use more and more passwords to lock information we put on the web. Passwords for bank accounts, government documents and personal data that is stored online are susceptible to code crackers and even government agencies aren’t safe from hackers.

Hector Sunol, co-founder and vice president at Cyzerg, an IT service provider company, is an expert with firewalls, cloud computing, information technology and system security.

“The weakest link in IT isn’t IT, it’s not the system, it’s the people behind the system,” said Sunol.

One example of a powerful hack was under President Barack Obama’s administration. The president’s administration acknowledged on July 9, 2015 that more than 21 million people were affected by a breach of government computer systems where social securities, fingerprints and more personal information was stolen, according to the New York Times.

Using the Internet to take control of data has become routine. But in the 2014 documentary “Rise of the Hackers” is stated that “the idea of subliminal passwords embedded in muscle memory by the Basel Ganglia, a deep unconscious part of the brain” is one of the safest ways to keep hackers from decrypting a code.

“Think about it,” Sunol said. “If a human being doesn’t know they know a password, that’s the best way to protect the system. You encrypt the weakest link, which is the human being, and the password can only be accessed by a system and not by the human.”

Technically, a computer would encrypt a password in someone’s subconscious. The password would be suppressed in the latent part of the brain and only the computer would be able to retrieve the password and unlock the system.

Although passwords today use encryption codes, code crackers are no strangers to the most used passwords online. The name of your first boyfriend, your mother’s name, password1 and more, are easy to crack down. Having letters, capitalized or lower case, numbers and symbols in today’s cyber world isn’t enough.

Back then, and still today Sunol explained it is very easy to hack. Dictionary attacks, where a hacker guesses passwords using every word in the dictionary is also a common password cracker and it can take seconds to do when using a computer. However, it isn’t very successful at cracking passwords with phrases.

Another way to hack is by clicking the “forgot my password” tab. “If you know the person’s email you can just type it in,” said Sunol. Once you type in the email, the security questions pop up.

“Now systems have become more sophisticated…but I could go back to the person invite them for drinks, and ask them the questions randomly and you’re going to tell me the answers because you’re not going to associate that I’m trying to hack your account.”

It’s scenarios like these that have led to more secure passwords. Motorola was the first company to provide a fingerprint scanner on phones and Apple soon followed.

Today, facial recognition is not only being used by government agencies to verify identities, it’s also being used by social media platforms like Facebook and ShutterStock. Soon, it could be used to even pay bills online.

A 2014 study by Alessandro Acquisiti was referenced in the Atlantic, where Acquisiti found that one could identify anonymous photos posted on dating sites with Google’s reverse image search. Facial recognition is now being used to unlock smart devices and the long lists of passwords are slowly being used less.

But Sunol fears that computation technology is changing too fast, and there’s “systems out there smart enough to try combinations until they get [the correct password].”