Is the password really dead?

By Fay Capstick

Recent tech news has been reporting that the password is now dead. But is this correct, can we really have a world where we don’t need to remember passwords? This week we will look at the password, one of the most annoying but critical things of modern life. We’ll discuss its history, why it might be dead, and what alternatives there could be.

What is the point of passwords?

Passwords (or Passcode in Apple-land) are an easy way to protect access to your electronic devices and data. They prove your identity and the right to access your data. They might not be perfect, but without them your data could be wide open to hackers and snoopers. The stronger the password the greater the protection, as they will be harder to guess or hack. Hence the very long passwords we are encouraged to use that contain a mix of upper and lower case characters, numbers, and symbols.

When was the password invented?

Passwords in the literal sense of saying a word verbally that would enable you to gain access have been around since ancient times, including in Ancient Rome.

The password was first used in relation to computers in 1960 at MIT. By the 1970s the UNIX operating system had a system of storing login passwords.

In 2022 passwords are used everywhere, from unlocking your devices to then accessing everything from email, to Facebook, to documents, newspapers, entertainment services, banking and texts.

Who says the password is dead?

Passwords give most people a headache. Luckily most devices will now store your passwords in a password/code manager system, meaning that you don’t need to remember them all beyond the master device password. The whole thing is still annoying.

Bill Gates first announced that the password was dead nearly 20 years ago ( We can all agree that we have gained more passwords than ever during this time (the average is now nearly 200), so rumours of its death might be greatly exaggerated or very hopeful.

Apple, Microsoft and Google have announced this month that they are committed to passwordless sign-ins across their platforms and devices ( However this doesn’t mean that this will be the case once you are logged into your device. Apps and services will still need passwords unless facial recognition is an option.

What alternatives are there to the password?

The problem with passwords is that they are the weak (human) link in IT security. People pick things they can remember, they reuse passwords and they write them down. All of this gives hackers a head start in cracking them and causes a major headache to cyber security experts worldwide. Forbes reports that 81% of data breaches are due to ‘compromised, weak or reused passwords’ (

Many devices now come with unlocking by fingerprint or facial recognition. Biometrics makes things easier but doesn’t always work reliably. Plus you still need to remember your master device passcode should the biometric unlocking fail.

While we still have to rely on passwords, they simply aren’t good enough alone. Multi-factor authentication is necessary to give an extra layer of security. This involves receiving a texted code to your phone, or responding to a message on another trusted device.


We can all agree that passwords aren’t perfect. A lot of the vulnerability they create is down to user flaws. Education on good cyber security can help make passwords more secure. Alternatives are here with biometrics, but it’s unlikely that we have seen the full death of the password yet.

Final thoughts

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