Passwords are... OK. They're not bad. But passwords have flaws. They're relatively easy to crack, for one, given enough time and effort and a powerful enough computer. Biometrics are the best unique tool we have at our disposal right now to personally identify ourselves, and Samsung thinks that its biometrics — its fingerprint scanner, a new iris scanner, and the Knox hardware encryption layer — are good enough to replace the password on your mobile. Not just for unlocking your phone, but for browsing the 'net too.
The core of the smartphone giant's play is a service called Samsung Pass, re-introduced at the launch of the new Galaxy Note7. Samsung Pass itself is older, having existed as a standard since 2014 and the launch of the first fingerprint-enabled Samsung phones. But now that both iris and fingerprint recognition are available, Samsung wants to put them to good use.
The main announcement at the Note7 launch was that Samsung would work with six different international banks, including Citi, to investigate integrating Samsung Pass's secure authentication into those banks' online banking services and digital wallets where they already exist. But the broader comments Samsung made were more interesting — not just in banking, but in the 'net more generally, Samsung thinks that biometrics are — now — secure enough to replace user-remembered or machine-stored passwords. That's a big deal.
Whether this actually takes off remains to be seen. The chief impediment is that it requires a relatively new Samsung phone — if not the Note7 with iris scanning, at least a Samsung Galaxy S5 or newer that has fingerprint scanning and the Knox hardware security layer. It would be great if Samsung contributed Pass as an open biometric authentication standard, that could be used by any mobile device (Android or iOS or otherwise).
But, if nothing else, the obvious potential of services like Samsung Pass prove the point that passwords are dead, and that a different kind of authentication is the future — we just might not have found it yet.