Could the era of passwords be drawing to a close? Decades of fumbling around to remember the right password or having to constantly reset passwords or jump through 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 for sale somewhere on the internet.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that a survey released by Experian shows consumers are embracing new methods of security based on physical markers or behavior. In fact, the company’s 2021 Global Identity and Fraud Report revealed consumers did not rank passwords among the three most secure ways to protect their identity.

Instead, the top 3 are “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 gaining 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 follows a surge in online activity during the pandemic that spans distance learning, remote work, and ecommerce. According to Experian, online consumer transactions over the past year were up 20%. While digital convenience has helped businesses and consumers adapt to the pandemic, it has also raised serious security concerns, with 55% of people surveyed ranking security as “the most important aspect of their online experience,” the report says.

Of course, the fact that consumers are taking security more seriously is a good sign. The study found that 34% of consumers now 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 for businesses seeking to expand their digital footprint. How can they securely authenticate customers without making the process too burdensome and yet still weed out fraud?

The answer would appear to lie in 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 respondents over 40.

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

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