The average Briton has 26 accounts online that require passwords, and uses 5 unique passwords to get through each day. While that study was done on Internet-users in the UK, I think it holds true for much of the online community. Each person simply has too many online accounts and too many passwords to remember. And this is just for an “average” Internet user. As an “expert” Internet user who is an early adopter online, I have about 200 different accounts that require passwords. We need to end this madness before it gets out of hand, and a “universal login” is the holy grail.
There are a few solutions currently out there, but none of them works as a universal login.
Using the same password everywhere
The easiest solution is to use the same password everywhere. However, doing this is not very secure, because once someone figures out your password for one account, all of your accounts are vulnerable. Then even if you are lucky enough to know one account has been hacked, it is a real pain to go and change the password for every one of your different accounts.
Also, different accounts have different password rules that might not allow you to have the exact same password everywhere. For example, one website might have a maximum password length of 8 characters, while another website might require you to have at least 12 characters.
Password generation systems
An alternative to using the same password everywhere is to have a “codec” for generating passwords. For example, you might have a base password “5hAzam!”, and then append the first two letters of the website domain you’re logging into, like “ya” for a yahoo.com site. That way, your Yahoo password would be “5hAzam!ya”, while your Facebook password would be “5hAzam!fa”. While this way is more secure, you still run into the problem of different account password standards being incompatible with your system, as described above.
Password managers are a more elegant solution but still does not provide an easy universal login. A password manager is a database of all your passwords that you can access using a master password. I currently use LastPass, which offers cloud storage of passwords across devices. Google Chrome also has a built-in password manager that will remember your entered passwords.
While with a password manager you only have to memorize your master password, there is still the problem of having different passwords for each site. It can also be a pain to log into your password manager to look up a password.
Universal login from mega-websites
Relatively recently, some mega-websites like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have been allowing you to log in using one account to other websites. For example, Pocket allows me to log in with one click using my Google account. However, obviously the problem here is that not every website supports the same websites for login, but it is an early step in the right direction.
Where this is going
As more and more physical devices in our lives become connected online and require passwords, we are going to face a major problem. Someday, perhaps your refrigerator, your thermostat, your car, your phone, your television, your oven, and pretty much any other electronic device you can think of may require you to log in. Will we have to memorize a different password for each device? What if one of the devices gets hacked? What do you do when you move and have to transfer your home’s appliances to a new owner? What if the new owner can’t get the passwords for the devices?
The solution I see here is for everyone to have a single universal login for everything. This is a gargantuan task that likely has to be solved by the government or a large corporation (or even a well-funded non-profit?). For example, let’s say Facebook logins become the standard universal login for everything. To use your phone, you would use your Facebook login. To start your smart car you would use your Facebook login. To change the settings on your smart refrigerator, you would use your Facebook login. To open your front door, you wouldn’t use a key, but you would enter your Facebook login. You get the point, and this is the direction I see the world moving towards.
Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments!