Speaking at an Interop keynote last week, Paypal Chief Information Security Officer Michael Barrett hinted that PINs and passwords may be going away when it comes to account security on smartphones. According to a post on CIO's website, Barrett serves as the president of the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance, an industry group looking for ways to replace the 52-year-old password technology with stronger authentication methods.
FIDO combines hardware, software and internet services to provide that higher level of authentication. That hardware can include a fingerprint scanner, a voice reader or something else. Barrett noted in his keynote that FIDO-enabled devices should begin appearing later this year, and he'd love to see Apple and other smartphone manufacturers leading the way to making FIDO mainstream: "It's widely rumored that a large technology provider in Cupertino, Calif., will come out with a phone later this year that has a fingerprint reader on it," he said. "There is going to be a fingerprint enabled phone on the market later this year. Not just one, multiple."
Apple, of course, bought fingerprint security firm AuthenTec last year. Whether or not the company plans to incorporate AuthenTec's technology in a phone debuting this year is pure conjecture at this point, but comments by Barrett and other information security executives seem to indicate that FIDO technology will be part of standard smartphone gear sooner than we expect.