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The Life and Death of Passwords

Duo Security, a part of Cisco, created “The Life and Death of Passwords” to guide users through our vision of a passwordless future. This documentary features:

  • Expert analysis on why and how we can eliminate passwords for the modern user
  • Comprehensive explanations on how security resilience is achieved even without passwords
  • Examples of how companies like yours can employ a phased approach to passwordless authentication
  • An in-depth look at the history of passwords

Meet Our Speakers Passwords: History and Future

The security of passwords is represented by an ominous picture of a various computers among the clouds

These days, the average person has about 100 passwords. For those who do most of their work online, it’s not uncommon to have 300 passwords or more. More passwords introduce more risk, as effective passwords must be complex and unique. Keeping track of lots of passwords leads many to re-use passwords, or rely on personal information like a pet’s name or child’s birthday which can be discovered by an attacker.

Most passwords can be cracked or quickly compromised, exacerbating the risk of breaches. 2021’s largest password breach to date exposed 8.4 billion passwords, for instance. You don’t have to be a cybersecurity expert to see how this trend of bundled stolen passwords in easy-to-use databases have become part of the very problem they were meant to solve, yet today, the humble password still remains as our primary defense against threat.

The good news is that security professionals are working towards a future without passwords. Led by our team of experts, Duo Security’s “The Life and Death of Passwords” documentary uncovers the history of passwords, why passwords have become less effective over time, and how data security can be established in a future without passwords.

Meet Our Experts

Guiding us on the path, from the earliest days of passwords to their visions of a future without passwords, are these great minds. Not only do they feature in “The Life and Death of Passwords,” but also we’ll share more of their insights here in the coming weeks as a series of extended interviews from:

J. Wolfgang Goerlich

J. Wolfgang Goerlich 

Advisory CISO at Cisco Secure with background in healthcare and financial services, connected by his objective of protecting identities

Watch J. Wolfgang Goerlich's Extended Interview

Ted Kietzman

Ted Kietzman

Product Marketing Manager with expertise in bringing passwordless solutions to market, understanding the problems it solves and helping it reach the right people and making these tools easy for users to understand

Extended Interview Coming Soon

Simon Singh

Simon Singh

Science author of “The Code Book,” which takes a deep dive into the history and evolution of secret communication

Watch Simon Singh's Extended Interview

Nick Steele

Nick Steele

Research Lead at Superlunar and co-chair of the WebAuthn Adoption Community Group, dedicated to research user-friendly authentication systems

Extended Interview Coming Soon

Jayson E. Street

Jayson E. Street

A self-described “hacker-helper- human” who champions the importance of teaching users how to stay safe, not just investing in technology

Extended Interview Coming Soon

Christi Volny

Christi Volny

Senior Software Engineer for Duo’s cloud single sign-on platform at Cisco Secure

Extended Interview Coming Soon

The History of Passwords and What's Next

We break down “The Life and Death of Passwords” into four parts: pre-computing history, the computing era, the problem with passwords and the passwordless future in a series that covers both historic snapshots and what’s ahead:

A leaf, a statue and a colosseum to represent the pre-computing era

Pre-Computing Era

  • Why people invented codes and ciphers and how their use in society evolved over time

  • The historical arms race between code makers and code breakers, and the early innovations that emerged

  • What the Caesar and Vigenère ciphers are, and how they work

  • A high-level overview of the Enigma machine, why Germans thought it was unbreakable,

    and the impact of the Allies cracking it

Passwords In The Pre-Computing Era

Computer processors and skyscrapers create a city among the clouds to represent computers in modern society

Computing Era 

  • The longstanding arms race of code making and breaking enters the digital era

  • Digital passwords are introduced (and quickly broken)

  • Encryption addresses the security gaps of plaintext

  • Teeing up: Where do things stand today?

Passwords In The Computing Era

A password icon represents the problem with passwords

The Problem with Passwords 

  • How passwords work differently in physical space compared to digital

  • Passwords are hard to remember and cumbersome to rotate

  • The importance of security education in getting user buy-in

  • Busting myths around passwordless and biometrics

The Problem with Passwords

A computer with a cloud and a forward-pointing arrow represent the progression of passwordless solutions in the future

The Passwordless Future 

  • How passwordless is growing from a business-focused solution to something that average people regularly use

  • The most important technical milestones for making passwordless functional, and what’s next

  • Passwordless innovations help security professionals make a bigger impact

  • Will we ever get rid of passwords completely?

The Life and Death of Passwords: Toward a Passwordless Future

While the ultimate goal is to build a future without passwords, most of us will still encounter passwords in our current day-to-day lives -- but how do we ensure we're being extra safe? Watch Expert Tips for Safer Passwords.