The Password As Paradox

After his entire digital life was hacked, writer Mat Honan pokes holes in the idea of the password. Logging in is supposed to be both easy and seamless for the user, but also private and hard to breach. But these two features are at cross purposes. Honan explores the paradox of the password.

Let’s say you’re on AOL. All I need to do is go to the website and supply your name plus maybe the city you were born in, info that’s easy to find in the age of Google. With that, AOL gives me a password reset, and I can log in as you.

First thing I do? Search for the word “bank” to figure out where you do your online banking. I go there and click on the Forgot Password? link. I get the password reset and log in to your account, which I control. Now I own your checking account as well as your email.

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