Using passwordless authentication boosts security and is more convenient than password-based authentication.
Password-based authentication systems are vulnerable to attacks, such as brute force attacks that constantly try different passwords. To prevent these problems, users should often change their passwords and use strong passwords. Many users may find this inconvenient, as it is not easy to create strong passwords and at the same time remember them.
According to NIST, it is no longer recommended to change passwords frequently. The passwords that users choose are usually related to their previous passwords and those that are easy to remember, so they are mainly weak and less secure.
As a developer, you must provide a secure account verification architecture to avoid inconveniences and security risks. That’s where passwordless authentication comes into play.
Passwordless authentication is any identity verification method that does not use a password. Let’s see what the approach to passwordless authentication is.
Table of Contents
What is passwordless authentication?
Passwordless authentication is a more convenient way to log in. It is a verification method that allows users to access applications, systems, and networks without a password. Businesses and individuals switching to passwordless authentication is a digital transformation. Thanks to passwordless authentication, passwords are no longer dispensable.
Passwordless authentication does not require any particular technology or procedure to verify a user’s identity. It is more of a goal achieved by employing various strategies or solutions. Passwordless authentication is frequently used with biometrics, authenticator apps, one-time passcodes (OTP) transmitted via email or SMS, etc. Passwordless authentication solutions ensure a seamless user experience, improve data security, and reduce the costs and complexity of IT operations.
Passwordless authentication is more secure than password-based authentication. Secure, in this case, means that the authentication method is less prone to attacks. Still, passwordless authentication methods can be vulnerable in one way or another and are therefore not 100% secure. There may not be an obvious way to attack them, but there is a chance in the future to find a way to get past security measures, given enough time and effort.
Using passwordless authentication methods will prevent attacks such as phishing and brute force attacks. Biometric authentication, for example, offers the highest level of security of any form of authentication. Using biometrics to verify a user’s identity is much more secure than passwords. This makes passwordless authentication difficult to beat in terms of security.
Attacks typically use social engineering and phishing techniques to steal usernames and passwords. As a result, passwords are the most common target of attacks. Getting rid of them leaves attackers with nothing to steal or manipulate.
To keep passwordless authentication more secure, multi-factor authentication (MFA) can be used. MFA provides a more secure way to maintain applications, systems, and the network.
Passwordless authentication methods
Passwordless authentication is a much more secure and effective way to protect your accounts and those of your users. Let’s review each authentication method to understand how they can help keep data secure.
Single sign-on (SSO)
Single-sign-on SSO is the most common passwordless authentication method. Allows users to securely log in to third-party applications using a single set of credentials. Almost all of us have logged in with services from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Slack, among others such as SSO.
SSO prevents users from having to authenticate repeatedly. Users find this very convenient as they can retain a valid session across all SSO-enabled applications by logging in once.
Biometric authentication verifies a user’s identity using physical or behavioral characteristics. Biological factors include:
· Fingerprint recognition
· facial recognition
· Speech recognition
· Iris scan
To set up an account, the user must choose one or more of the above physical characteristics, which are then stored in a database. To access the account, the user’s characteristics are compared with the data stored in the database. Verification occurs when the match is successful and the user logs into the account.
Biometric identification is used to simplify the user experience with systems. The method is safer because the probability of identical fingerprints, faces,s or irises is very low. Various types of security-conscious applications and devices, such as those related to banking, schools, healthcare, mobile phones, and more, use biometric authentication methods to authenticate themselves.
Possession factors grant users access through something they own/possess, such as a mobile device. Users can receive a one-time access code (OTP) via email or SMS. Users then log into the system automatically by responding to notifications or entering codes.
Attacks are less likely to occur in this case because attackers need the possession factor to respond to application requests.
Magic links allow users to authenticate without a password. The user is prompted to enter their email address. The system then sends a unique URL to the email. Once the URL is opened, the user can log in to the app or account.
Magic links are intuitive and provide a great user experience during authentication. After all, clicking a link and going directly to an app is easier than typing a username and password.
Benefits of passwordless authentication
Improved user experience
According to research by Nordpass, an average user has between 70 and 80 passwords. Therefore, it would take a lot of work for the average user to create so many complicated passwords. Remembering different complex passwords is also a challenging task. Additionally, resetting passwords is a hassle as it wastes a lot of time. People have to go through these hassles to log into various apps and keep their accounts safe.
Passwordless authentication provides users with a hassle-free experience. Users can receive an OTP via SMS or email, enter the code, and directly access their account. Biometric authentication requires physical characteristics, i.e. fingerprints or facial, to verify and gain access to applications. This method is quite safe since the physical characteristics are unique in almost all cases. Passwordless authentication improves the user experience because it is fast, efficient, and secure.
Reduced costs and maintenance
Passwordless authentication reduces security costs. An organization does not have to spend on password storage systems, administration, maintenance, and resets. This saves a lot of time and effort for the IT support department because they won’t have to deal with password resets, password recovery, and handling lost passwords when an attack occurs. Plus, IT won’t have to find or prevent password breaches.
Passwordless authentication makes it possible to reduce or completely eliminate the cost of handling concerns related to password-based security. Businesses can save millions of dollars by eliminating password-based security and associated password management.
Passwords are easily cracked and guessed. Phishing and brute force attacks are the most common methods used to steal passwords. In research conducted by IBM, companies lose an average of $3.92 million from data breaches. If cybercriminals can obtain your passwords, it means they can also access sensitive company data. Once they have access, they can do whatever they want with a company’s data.
Passwords are more vulnerable to attacks, and passwordless authentication methods dramatically improve security and reduce data breaches.
Challenges in passwordless authentication
Passwordless authentication is secure and improves user experience. The challenge arises during deployment. You need a detailed plan while implementing passwordless authentication. Implementing passwordless authentication in organizations incurs additional costs. Users may require training and new software and hardware.
Accept the change
Many people fear change. Some people may be reluctant to remove the password-based authentication method and try the passwordless authentication method because of this. This requires effort on the part of the organization to overcome, but it is worth it.
Security restrictions on passwordless authentication
Passwordless authentication is not 100% secure. Cybercriminals can use malicious methods such as malware and Trojans to breach the security of a system or application. Developers must use strong security measures to prevent attacks. Consequently, organizations must also use MFA with different levels of security.
Password-based login systems are vulnerable and insecure. Migrating to passwordless authentication improves the user experience, security, and productivity of your organization’s workforce.
Passwordless authentication saves time and costs. Implementing and executing passwordless authentication will cost less than losses from data breaches.