Experian: Consumers prefer ‘invisible security’ to passwords

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Could the era of passwords be drawing to a close? Decades of fumbling around to remember the right password or constantly resetting or having to jump through multiple authentication hoops have made them dirty words for many consumers.

All those headaches, and there’s still a good chance your personal information will wind up somewhere for sale on the internet.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then, according to a new survey released by Experian, that consumers are embracing new methods of security that are physical and behavior-based. Indeed, according to the company’s 2021 Global Identity and Fraud Report, consumers did not rank passwords among the top 3 most secure ways to protect identity.

Instead, the top 3 are so-called “invisible” methods:

  • Physical biometrics: Think facial recognition and fingerprints.
  • Pin codes: Convenient for mobile devices.
  • Behavioral analytics: Passively observed signals, which mean consumers do nothing.

The Experian survey included 9,000 consumers and more than 2,700 businesses spread across 10 countries.

The push to end passwords is getting greater attention from the security industry, enterprises, and venture capitalists. In December 2020, Beyond Identity raised $75 million for its solution that uses digital certificates to replace passwords. And just a few weeks ago, Identiq raised $47 million for a cryptographic network that can be used to confirm identity.

The Experian study comes on the heels of a remarkable shift as COVID-19 drove a surge in online activity, from distance learning to remote work to ecommerce. Experian tracked a 20% increase in online consumer transactions over the past year. While that digital convenience became essential to helping businesses and consumers adapt to the pandemic, it also raised security concerns, with 55% of people surveyed ranking security as “the most important aspect of their online experience,” the report says.

Of course, it’s a positive sign that consumers are taking security more seriously. The study found that 34% of consumers worry about privacy, up from 29% before the pandemic. Likewise, 33% worry about identity theft, up from 28% one year ago. And 49% have bigger concerns about fraud, compared to just 37% last year.

These responses highlight a key challenge as businesses expand their digital footprint: how to securely authenticate real customers without making the process too burdensome, but still weeding out fraud?

The answer would appear to be those invisible security strategies. In the survey, 48% of consumers under the age of 40 said they felt safer using biometric security now than before COVID-19, though that number drops to 37% for those over 40.

“Consumers want to be recognized digitally without extra steps to identify themselves, and they don’t want to remember yet another password,” said Eric Haller, Experian EVP and general manager of Identity, Fraud and DataLabs, in a statement. “They are open to more practical solutions in today’s digital era.”


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