People are constantly worrying about their systems’ security. This is why we’re installing antiviruses and performing daily, weekly and monthly scans. We also try to stay away from dangerous sites or open messages that might contain viruses. But, how do we protect ourselves from people entering our Windows space?
The answer lies in PINs and passwords.
Windows 10 allows users to log in by using one of two options: PIN or password. The debate over whether one option is safer than the other has been long-standing. So, which one should you choose?
PIN and Password Options for Windows 10
Before you’re allowed to set up Windows Hello and add your fingerprint or enable facial recognition, you’ll be asked to set up a PIN. This PIN consists of a minimum of four numbers, which makes it much similar to the debit card PIN. Once you tip the last digit of the PIN, Windows automatically starts. You don’t need to click any buttons or hit Enter.
On the other hand, you can insert a password of any size, containing letters, numbers and symbols. This has been a long-standing preference of most users. According to one of the essay writers at a renowned content company, the reason for this is as follows: ‘’It’s partly because they’re familiar with the option thanks to the previous Windows versions, and partly because they think it’s the safer choice.’’
Even so, many believe that a PIN is safer, not to mention more efficient than the traditional password option.
According to Forbes, the corporate vice-president of Microsoft, Medhi Yusuf, announced that a whopping number of one billion people use this operating system. Microsoft’s statements came with two surprises.
Firstly, Microsoft announced on March 24 of 2020, that they are pausing all cumulative, optional, and non-security updates starting from May of the same year. Secondly, they reported that they want users to switch from passwords to PIN to increase their security.
This grand change of theirs is named 2004 or 20H1 and is an update that features a multitude of tweaks to just about anything, including Bluetooth connectivity and Cortana or Notepad changes. But in addition to this, users can expect many improved and added security options.
One of those options is the idea of Microsoft to switch their Windows systems to password-less in the near future – for all the users. In other words, Microsoft is currently pushing to switch password sign-ins to PIN sign-ins on all devices. At the moment, this will be an optional feature, but one that comes highly recommended.
The recently updated settings app makes this process slower, but safer, and is currently replacing the control panel we’ve used before. This section will include an option called Make your device passwordless, created to provide users with a safer and more seamless experience.
According to an Information Technology expert at the SuperiorPapers dissertation service: ‘’Windows users can expect complete elimination of passwords and widespread use of security tools for multifactor authentication such as Fingerprint, PIN, or the widely popular Windows Hello Face feature’’.
How to Set up a PIN
If you want to take Microsoft’s recommendation right away, you should know the steps for setting a PIN. You’ll find this option by opening the Start menu, clicking on Settings, then on Accounts. And finally, you should look for Sign-in options where you can choose to set up a PIN.
It is recommended to choose a PIN of more than 4 numbers, preferably even more than 6. However, you should not use a PIN that you use on other devices or for other purposes. Many people make the mistake of using their security number or their debit card PIN to make it easier to remember. Since you’re making this step as an additional security measure, you definitely want to choose something original.
There are different options given by Windows 10 in terms of PIN. You can choose to:
- create a picture password i.e. draw a pattern on your touch screen
- enter a 4+ digit PIN
- use your fingerprint
The option to enter a password is still standing there, available for you to pick.
Why a PIN Instead of a Password?
The question that everyone is asking at this point is: why a PIN instead of a password? Why did Microsoft make such a recommendation?
Let’s discuss this.
Most of us log into the Windows 10 system on our computer with our Microsoft account. It is easy, fast, and allows you to synchronize and access just about everything across devices. You can see your contacts, e-mail, Internet Explorer favourites, and even the wallpapers options. You get access to your OneDrive files, your OneNote notes and notebooks, as well as accounts like Skype.
When you automatically log in to your computer with your personal account on Microsoft, you can see all Windows Store purchases that are tied to the account, read all the e-mails, and check all your saved documents.
This is truly convenient, right?
But, it comes with a big side effect. If you compromise your password somehow, a person will log in to every device you have and get the same access you have – to everything. The password you’ve used for the account stops being a login password and turns into a point of entry into everything you own on your Microsoft personal account, including your banking details and any credit cards you have on file.
This sounds terrible, but it means that hackers will get access to the data you want to keep safe and confidential. That’s why a PIN is currently the more recommended option.
Using a PIN will give you a significant advantage in terms of security. It can only be used to unlock the device you are using. It’s not synchronized across Microsoft. Not to mention, the PIN is stored on a TPM chip that’s tamper-resistant and armoured against hackers’ attacks. The PIN you use is further encrypted to increase your security. When you enter the PIN you’ve chosen, the TPM chip we mentioned will send an authentication key to Microsoft in order to get you to your account.
Not to mention, the PIN can only be used by the person who’s using the actual device, which is pretty much the best security advantage you have. Even if someone installs a malware on your device somehow and monitors all of your keystrokes, they won’t be able to use the PIN without the actual device.
Naturally, Microsoft has added an extra layer of security that would prevent people to guess the PIN. It might be theoretically easier to guess compared to a password, but on Windows 10, you only have four attempts before the system requires a character string to ensure that it’s not a bot trying to get in. After a single attempt, a fifth one, the user has to restart the computer. Once the computer is on again, the user gets one more try before the PIN is completely blocked.
The bottom line
Microsoft recommends the use of PIN for several reasons. Compared to password protection, using a PIN to sign-in to Windows 10 is much safer. Even the most complex passwords can be hacked easier than a PIN, especially since to use your PIN, hackers have to have your device.
Michael Gorman is a freelance writer who works at the top-rated company that, according to students, is the best paper writing service in the UK. He has experience in working at an assignment writing service that provides academic help for 5 years now. As an IT specialist, Michael contributes many blog posts to websites online.