No More Passwords: Windows 10 to Feature Advanced Security Measures

Kirk retinal scan

Clear the heck back in 1982, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan boldly looked into the far future and saw the year ... 2015, it would seem. In an early scene from the movie, Admiral James Tiberius Kirk of Starfleet, while visiting the Enterprise, retrieves a secure briefing about the Geneis Project from the ship's computer for Captain Spock and Dr. McCoy. Before beginning the presentation, the computer prompts the good admiral with the words, "Identify for retinal scan."


Biometric authentication has been around for a while — fingerprint matching is a rudimentary application of this technique — but the idea of computers using biometric markers to permit or prevent you from logging in existed only in books and movies until relatively recently. Now biometric authentication has come down in price so far that Windows 10 is ready to replace user passwords with something much easier to remember.


As reported in MCPMag, the online publication for Microsoft Certified Professionals, Microsoft officials announced last week that Windows 10 will be equipped with biometric security measures, including a "hardware-dependent" feature called Windows Hello capable of identifying users via face and eye scans. Windows Hello will apparently work with existing tablet, laptop, etc., fingerprint scanners, but you'll need some bells and whistles to unlock the really cool stuff.


You can't just load Windows 10 and let it use your PC's old Logitech webcam, for example, or the integrated camera in your laptop, to perform a Wrath of Khan-style scan of your face or iris. Windows Hello requires advanced photographic technology. Although if your computer already has Intel's RealSense 3D Camera (F200), then you're in.


All of that, however, is just Phase One, so to speak. Windows 10 will also feature a system that Windows is calling "Passport" for now, which lets Windows Hello verify your identity to websites, and web-based applications. As long as your Windows 10-powered device (tablet, phone, laptop, desktop PC) is in your possession, then you don't need a password to access, say a bank, online e-mail account, business network, or whatever it is that normally requires your unique combination of numbers, letters and sybmols.


To prevent theft of your biometric "signature," whether face, iris, fingerprint, of some combination of factors, the information that identifies you is stored locally, only on the device itself. Its only purpose is to unlock the device and activate Passport. Once you're logged in, Windows Hello and Passport will assume the formerly password-driven function of verifying that you're you to any of the places you go on line that require identification.


It's all fairly heady ... and maybe even a tiny bit sinister. If you tend to think in terms of movies, then the idea of Passport eventually admitting you to everything that you access online may be a little reminiscent of the generally forgotten and largely laughable Sanda Bullock thriller The Net, which for all its general idiocy, did envision a single corporation providing key security technology to every website everywhere. Don't look now, but is that Jeremy Northam lurking in the cafe across the street?

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
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