Microsoft to abandon passwords

Microsoft has revealed at a security panel at CeBIT that it is preparing to dump passwords in favour of two-factor authentication in forthcoming versions of Windows. Detlef Eckert, the senior director in charge of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, did not specify which form of two-factor authentication would be used in the next edition of the company's operating system, codenamed Longhorn.

But he said that the code would have vastly improved handling of technologies including smartcards and security tokens. "I believe that the time of password-only authentication is gone," said Eckert. "We need to go to two-factor authentication. This is the only way to bring the level of trust business needs." The panellists were in broad agreement that better digital identity is essential for the future development of e-commerce. RSA Security chief executive Art Coviello suggested that the effects were already being felt, pointing out that some Australian banks have recently pulled out of planned web services because of security fears.

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