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Mastercard and Visa to ERADICATE password authentication

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Mastercard and Visa are removing the need for users to enter their passwords for identity confirmation as part of a revamp of the existing (oft-criticised) 3-D Secure scheme.

The arrival of 3D Secure 2.0 next year will see the credit card giants moving away from the existing system of secondary static passwords to authorise online purchases, as applied by Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode, towards a next-gen system based on more secure biometric and token-based prompts.

Security experts welcomed the move, which some argue is if anything overdue.

Initially authentication codes will be sent to pre-registered mobiles before the longer term goal of placing more emphasis on biometrics.

“All of us want a payment experience that is safe as well as simple, not one or the other,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions at MasterCard, The Guardian reports. “We want to identify people for who they are, not what they remember. We have too many passwords to remember and this creates extra problems for consumers and businesses.”

3-D Secure is disliked both by security experts, who argue it's easily circumvented by phishing attacks, and merchants, who say the scheme's only benefit is allowing banks to shift liability in the case of fraudulent payments. The long-standing criticism has been that schemes like Verified by Visa inconvenience users without offering increased security.

Marta Janus, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, welcomed the decision by the credit card giants to move away from static passwords.

"It’s pretty well known that passwords are severely flawed: weak ones are easy to remember and easy to guess; strong ones are hard to guess, but hard to remember," Janus said. "So the move from Mastercard and Visa is definitely an interesting one."

"It’s a really good approach and, if implemented properly, the new protocol will not only be way more convenient for users, but also much more secure. One time passwords are already widely used and considered much safer than traditional 'fixed' passwords, even if it's still possible for cybercriminals to obtain and use them. But, combined with biometric checks, this will certainly make a strong alternative to any existing authentication method," she concluded.

Phil Turner, VP EMEA at enterprise-focused identity management service firm Okta, also welcomed the development as a move towards reducing the number of usernames/passwords consumers are obliged to remember.

"Between their work and personal accounts, consumers have a lot of usernames and passwords to remember, each of which has different password requirements and expiration cycles," Turner explained. "Add this to the hassle caused by constant password resets and remembering secret questions and it’s clear consumers need a way to make this process easier.

"The move to abolish passwords will no doubt be welcomed by customers. Today we have so many passwords to remember. As a result, most of us suffer from 'password fatigue' where we use obvious or reused passwords often written down on Post-it notes or saved in Excel files on laptops," he added. ®

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