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Thursday, 26 September 2013 09:34

Passwords in the dental practice are still dead! Featured

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post 62 picIn a speech to the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco Bill Gates predicted the demise of passwords with the declaration that they would not “meet the challenge” of keeping critical information secure. 

The interesting thing about this statement is that it was the 2004 conference, almost ten years ago.  He double-downed in 2006 with the claim that “the end to passwords was in sight”. 

Then more recently a September, 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal again echoes this sentiment with the headline “Say Goodbye to Passwords”.


These words remind me of the weeks-long impending death of Francisco Franco in 1975.  The news reports of the dictator’s lingering demise became such a regular part of every news broadcasts that they were mocked in a long-running gag on Saturday Night Live with the catchphrase “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead”. 

Like Franco the demise of passwords seems to be a perpetual story, so let me add my voice.

It is not that the concept of passwords is faulty or weak in itself; it’s our management of them that have rendered them ineffectual.  Here are the major flaws that we have introduced into this old friend.

  •     Many people use the same password for all their applications.  If someone gets your password, it will unlock all of your doors to email, bank accounts, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon…
  •     Many people use passwords that can be easily guessed.  The most common password is “password”.  Number two is “123456”.  It’s hard to believe that they would provide any significant level of security.
  •     Many passwords can be found on sticky-notes posted on the side of the monitor or in a convenient desk drawer next to the computer.  
  •     Often in small businesses passwords are shared or only one password is used for the entire staff.
  •     People seldom change their passwords.  Know it once, know it for years.

If we are actually nearing the demise of this ancient artifact, what will replace it?  This discussion centers on biometrics.  Something about you physically that can be read and validated by a computer or one of its connected devices.  The most common biometrics are:

  •     Fingerprints – Fingerprint readers have been on computers for years and the technology has become quite mature.
  •     Facial Recognition – Using a camera to measure the distances between certain points of your face can be as unique as a fingerprint.
  •     Voice Recognition – Not as mature of a technology, but one with great promise.
  •     Iris Authentication – This has been around for years with specialized readers but it’s on its way to being used with inexpensive cameras attached to smart phones or home PC’s.

Another replacement possibility would be a token that could be built into a USB memory stick or wearable “jewelry” that would be detected through RFID or Bluetooth technology.  

These technologies are mature or maturing to the point of being practical, small and cheap.  Like Franco, the password’s death may be just around the corner.  I’ll predict that fingerprint recognition is the most likely successor. 

This may not be good news to the dental industry, or healthcare as a whole.  Gloved hands would become a barrier in more ways than one.  A token-type device or voice recognition seems the most practical alternative.  

You may be asking “why the sudden interest in security”? 

Healthcare is becoming increasingly connected with the sharing of health records between various care settings.  Expect your dental office records to contain more and more information about your patient’s health. 

Next week’s post will be about medical identity theft.  According to Jim Landers of The Dallas News, “Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America and the theft of medical identities is a key part of the problem.” 

Your office records are a goldmine to an identity thief.  Poor password management and the sharing of passwords within your staff will put your patients at an increased risk to medical identity theft

Taking advantage of new authentication technology will become an increasingly important right click for your practice.

Read 1315 times Last modified on Thursday, 26 September 2013 10:38
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