A French-American start-up launched an automatic password changer in an attempt to remove the all-too-human frailty that has rendered the phrase "computer security" a worrying oxymoron, leading a rival US software firm to launch a similar service.
For most people, properly managing passwords verges on impossible, given the dizzying array of devices and websites on which we have all become increasingly reliant.
But Dashlane.com and LastPass are stepping up their offerings to counter hackers.
Dashlane, which was founded in Paris but is now based in New York, said on Tuesday that it has acquired PassOmatic, a start-up that created the automatic password changer it is building into its own products in coming weeks. The deal's terms were not disclosed.
In response, LastPass, a competing supplier of password management software, said it now offers an automatic password changing feature of its own. The feature is available when LastPass users visit more than 75 supported sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.com.
"With one click, LastPass’ patent-pending technology launches a website and logs in for you, then automatically changes your password," the Fairfax, Virginia-based company said in a statement.
Dozens of similarly featured programmes exist, with LastPass, Dashlane and RoboForm among the most popular across both computer and phone systems. Each helps users store and organise passwords in a secure database controlled by a master password.
But by offering a way to change passwords regularly with just a few clicks, Dashlane's approach marks a breakthrough in an industry that typically demands users create complex strings of text and numbers - a request that largely goes unheeded.
"The key is to have reasonably complicated passwords that are different on every website," Dashlane Chief Executive Emmanuel Schalit said in a telephone interview.
Dashlane says the feature will update passwords automatically at pre-set intervals, say every 30 days, or at the user's request if, for example, a website's security has been compromised.
"We are making passwords go away from the perspective of the consumer, without doing away with passwords from a technical perspective," Schalit said.
Though some cyber security experts have said passwords will eventually be replaced by other forms of identification, such as fingerprints, the prospect of passwords disappearing completely remains a long way off, and Dashlane has, in effect, found a way to manage a user's digital identity across the Web.
The LastPass password changer makes password changes locally on a specific user device, the advantage of which is that only the user has access to passwords, the company said.
Dashlane was founded in Paris five years ago by three engineers backed by Bernard Liautaud, the French entrepreneur who started Business Objects, the data analysis software company acquired by SAP for $6.8 billion in 2007.