Do you lie awake at night, obsessing over your passwords? If you use phrases you can remember, they are probably weak and easy to hack, and if you use strong ones, you can't remember them. Either way, having to come up with your own passwords leaves you with that nagging feeling that you'll be at fault if someone cracks your codes.

Your long nightmare may soon be ending, as biometric authentication progresses from science fiction to fact. Case in point: UK bank HSBC recently announced it will be offering voice recognition and touch security to replace the need for customers to supply passwords in order to authenticate their accounts.

Biometrics are much harder to impersonate and require no memorization, just the use of part of your body.

A YouGov survey for Equifax, the large credit bureau, showed that more than a third of respondents thought passwords to be an antiquated security measure. Disturbingly, 38 percent said they used the same password for multiple accounts, and 55 percent admitted to seldom updating passwords. This is music to a hacker's ears.

HSBC is by no means the first company to replace passwords with biometrics. In 2013, Apple introduced Touch ID, a fingerprint identification system for its iPhones and iPads, to offer an alternative to passcodes. You simply touch a button (made from sapphire crystal) and the app scans your fingerprint. If recognized, the system unlocks your device. The same system can be used to authorize payments on Apple Pay, the firm's mobile wallet app.

According to Apple, the chances of improper fingerprint authentication using its system is 1 in 50,000, compared to 1 in 10,000 for a 4-digit passcode. To further protect users, the system locks up after 5 unsuccessful attempts to match a fingerprint. If you report your iPhone lost or stolen, Touch ID on the device is immediately disabled.

Another biometrics booster is MasterCard, which teamed up the BMO Financial Group to introduce a biometric credit card program in March. The MasterCard Identity Check system verifies online transactions using fingerprint and facial recognition biometrics.

MasterCard is serious about biometrics, quoting research that 53 percent of shoppers forget important passwords more than once a week, and then waste 10 minutes per incident to reset their accounts. This causes a third of forgetful online shoppers to abandon a purchase and 60 percent to miss a time-sensitive transaction. A majority of respondents want to see passwords replaced by something better.

Financial giant USAA released facial recognition software in 2015 which allows access to its mobile app. You simply take a selfie on your phone, and blink when instructed (to prove you are alive, not a photo or video).

The process takes about 2 seconds to complete (compared to about 20 seconds for voice recognition), and works on both Android and Apple phones. USAA also provides a voice recognition option, a handy alternative when you are driving a car. To further secure the system, it only works on the user's registered phone.


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