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Life after passwords: Mozilla releases Persona online ID system

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(Read caption) Mozilla's "Persona" online ID system uses a single email to sign users in to sites, rather than relying on different usernames and passwords. Here, Persona prompts a user to sign in to the Times Crossword site.

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Let's face it: passwords are a pain. The best passwords are non-dictionary words (the word "password," for example, isn't as strong as something like "#PAs$W0rd!"), which makes them difficult to remember. And for maximum security online, experts recommend that you don't use the same password across different sites – which only adds to the complexity.

Mozilla, the software foundation behind the Firefox browser, has a plan to make online security easier. This week the company released a beta version of Persona, a system that lets users securely sign into different sites without having to worry about passwords.

How does it work? Rather than relying on each individual website to authenticate users, Persona makes your Web browser of choice (Safari, Firefox, or others) do the work. Traditionally you'd use a combination of a username and password to sign into, say, a banking site – Persona instead uses your e-mail address.

It works like this: pick an e-mail address and a password to use across Persona. Mozilla will e-mail you at that address to verify that it's really yours. Then, any time you encounter a site that supports Persona (the Times Crossword is one early adopter), you can sign in using that single e-mail and password combination.  


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