Paving the Way to A Passwordless Future

Passwords are one of the oldest security tools in the internet. But today, we see rising cybercrime. Passwords are hard to remember, easy to replace, guess, hack, and intercept, leading to constant attack. They are the number one target of cybercriminals and a lot of the breaches involve weak and stolen passwords.
Passwordless

Other problems with passwords are:

  • They follow patterns: Majority of passwords follow a certain pattern, it is easy for hackers to commit data theft. 
  • They are not unique: People tend to reuse passwords and they are easily leaked.
  • Ransomware  attacks: Ransomware attackers want shortcuts and very often compromised passwords are how they gain initial access into a network

 

What Does Passwordless Really Mean

Passwordless authentication verifies a user’s identity, without using a password. Instead, it uses more secure alternatives such as possession factors (one-time passwords [OTP], registered smartphones), or biometrics (fingerprint, retina scans). What are the types of passwordless authentication? Here is a summary:

 

  • Biometrics: Physical traits such as fingerprint or retina, and behavioral traits, like typing and screen touching dynamics, are used to uniquely identify a person. Although modern AI enables hackers to spoof certain physical traits, behavioral characteristics remain hard to fake.
  • Possession factors: Authentication via something that a user owns or carries with them. It can be the code generated by a smartphone authenticator app, OTPs received via SMS, or a hardware token.
  • Magic links: This requires the user to provide their email address, and then the system sends them an email containing a unique link, when clicked, it grants access only to the user.

How Does Passwordless Authentication Work?

Typically in a password-based scenario, a user-provided password is matched against what is stored in the database.Passwordless authentication replaces passwords with other authentication factors that are intrinsically safer. A passwordless system works similarly, but instead of passwords, a user’s distinctive characteristics are compared. Digital certificates work in a way in which there is only one key for the padlock and only one padlock for the key. The private key is stored on the user’s local device which can only be accessed using an authentication factor, e.g., a fingerprint, PIN, or OTP. 

 

Is passwordless authentication safe? There’s no authentication system out there which can’t be hacked. Yet, passwordless techniques are inherently safer than passwords. 

It takes a higher level of hacking sophistication to skills and sophistication to infiltrate a passwordless system.

MFA vs Passwordless Authentication

Passwordless authentication replaces passwords with another authentication factor that is more unique in nature. On the other hand, MFA (multi-factor authentication) applies more than one authentication factor to verify a user’s identity.

 

We sometimes confuse passwordless with MFA or use the two interchangeably because many traditional, password-based login systems have started using a passwordless technique as their secondary authentication factor.

Benefits of Passwordless Authentication

  • Enhanced user experience: You no longer need to memorize any credentials. It only takes a few basic steps and works on both websites and mobile applications alike. It is also easier to sign in and access the systems you want from anywhere without using a password.

 

  • Increased cost-effectiveness: Passwords require constant maintenance. Eliminating passwords will save time, productivity, and expenses.

 

  • Better cybersecurity: When there is no password to hack in the first place, the attack surface will automatically decrease. IT can reclaim complete visibility over identity and access management. 

Accelerating Your Passwordless Journey

The easier your password is set, the likelier it is for hackers to crack. User-controlled passwords are vulnerable to cyber threats like phishing, credential stuffing, brute force attacks, corporate account takeover (CATO), and more. Even though passwords are far less prevalent, they are still being used worldwide.  With many companies have now realized that passwords are the primary reason for data breaches, it is expected that passwordless authentication will take over soon.

More Questions About Passwordless Answered

If you’re new to passwordless or perhaps heard of it but still want to learn more, rewatch our Passwordless webinar, in which we covered:

 

  • Examine the evolution of passwords, challenges, and vulnerabilities
  • Explain what passwordless really means
  • Explore how does a passwordless future look like
  • Discuss Implications for end-users, developers, and IT/ security 
  • Share best practices of deploying passwordless to meet security requirements

 

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