Richard Archdeacon, Cisco’s advisory chief information security officer for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. Picture: SUPPLIED
Richard Archdeacon, Cisco’s advisory chief information security officer for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. Picture: SUPPLIED

In this edition of the Business Day Spotlight, we talk about the drawbacks of passwords in the digital economy that have technology firms worldwide considering a “passwordless” future.

Our host Mudiwa Gavaza is joined by Richard Archdeacon, who heads Cisco’s advisory chief information security officer (CISO) for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia.

Join the discussion: 

Valued at $227bn (R3.2-trillion), Cisco Systems is considered one of the largest cybersecurity companies in the world.

Given the increased adoption of digital services amid remote working and online learning, Cisco has flagged passwords —  a long used method of authentication online — as  inefficient  and a possible vulnerability for businesses.

Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.
Business Day Spotlight host Mudiwa Gavaza. Picture: DOROTHY KGOSI.

The discussion begins with Archdeacon’s views on   whether passwords are already a thing of the past. “Not yet, but hopefully in the years to come, we will see [them] slowly disappear for any number of reasons,” he says. 

Archdeacon highlights that passwords are easily compromised and difficult to manage, costing enterprises billions of dollars annually. Users are inundated with passwords in their personal and professional lives. Password reset requests comprise the lion’s share of IT help desk tickets, resulting in lost productivity for users and increased support costs for the business, he says.

The future, therefore, is one in which password use is minimised or eradicated completely. 

Passwordless authentication is the term used to describe a group of identity verification methods that don’t rely on passwords.

Archdeacon explains that biometrics, security keys, and specialised mobile applications are all considered “passwordless” or “modern” authentication methods.

The discussion also looks at the history of passwords in  digital environments; the benefits that first led to their widespread use and adoption; the inefficiencies and threats that password systems face in the modern economy; alternative authentication methods, including their benefits and drawbacks; ways in which criminals can exploit password systems; Cisco’s investment in cybersecurity; and the steps needed to get the world to a passwordless future.

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 Business Day Spotlight is a MultimediaLIVE production.

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