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Biometrics and two-factor authentication can help you stay ahead of scammers

Priority Level: 
29 April 2016

Australians are advised to consider using extra log-on security - not just passwords - to protect themselves against the theft of personal information.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is now well established across many websites and applications as an alternative to single-password methods.

Passwords as single forms of authentication are falling out of favour as many people use weak (easily guessed) passwords or reuse them across multiple websites. This increases the vulnerability of information should a password falls into the wrong hands. Criminals can use a variety of methods to crack passwords, ranging from picking up discarded sticky notes that people may write their passwords on to sophisticated online attacks.

Two-factor authentication involves using two different criteria to authorise access to a website¾typically something only you know (like a password) or something only you have access to (like a phone with SMS capability). A range of websites including Twitter, Paypal and WordPress, have an optional second factor to their log-on processes.  

In addition, biometric technologies appear to be gaining momentum as an alternate, more secure way of protecting user information from theft. These technologies use the unique biological characteristics of an individual, such as fingerprints, iris, voice, or facial recognition, to identify them. 

Research published by the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed 96 percent of respondents to an online survey whose information had been misused in the past were prepared to use biometric security technology in future. The 2014 survey of 5,000 people found that 446, or 8.9 percent of respondents, had had their personal information misused in the previous 12 months. ‘While a willingness to use passwords and fingerprint recognition was most prevalent, a third or more of respondents were willing to use facial, iris or voice recognition to protect their personal information,’ the researchers say.

More information

Stay Smart Online has information on protecting your computer.