While passwords are undoubtedly the most common factor used to verify a user’s identity today, they are the least secure authentication method. They can easily be stolen, hacked, or compromised, which puts businesses at risk. In fact, the number of corporate credentials exposed on the dark web has increased by 429% since March 2020.
To solve the password problem, many organizations are turning to passwordless authentication.
What is passwordless authentication?
Passwordless authentication is any method of verifying a user’s identity without the need to enter a password. Instead, users can utilize a possession factor (e.g. a one-time passcode, security key, or registered smartphone), or an inherent factor (e.g. fingerprint, facial, or retina scan).
The passwordless authentication process involves a pair of private and public cryptographic keys. The former is unique to the user and much harder to intercept than a password, while the latter is hosted on the application or system the user is trying to access with the private key. The user is granted access if the public and private keys match, making one key useless without the other.
Passwordless authentication is any method of verifying a user’s identity without the need to enter a password.
What are the types of passwordless authentication?
There are two general types of passwordless authentication:
1. Biometric authentication
This authentication method involves a piece of hardware connected to a computer that can recognize biometric data, such as a user's face, fingerprint, iris, or voice. Since the biometrics are unique to the individual, they are more difficult to hack than passwords and PIN codes.
2. Non-biometric authentication
Non-biometric authenticators are often used as a backup or an additional security measure on top of biometrics. For instance, employees can utilize Bluetooth- or Near Field Communication-enabled key fobs to secure their computers. Once they walk away from their workstation, their computer locks automatically. And when they’re nearby, the computer unlocks itself.
What are the benefits of passwordless authentication?
Adopting passwordless authentication for your company comes with the following benefits:
- Better user experience: Users no longer need to remember and update complex password combinations.
- Threat-resistant login: Because there are no passwords to enter, the likelihood of users falling for social engineering attacks like phishing is reduced.
- Reduced total cost of ownership: Users tend to forget their passwords, especially when required to change their password frequently. By eliminating passwords and allowing users to recover access to their accounts using more secure factors, you can reduce the number of IT support tickets.
- Easier implementation: Using factors that employees already possess, like their mobile device (biometrics and authenticator apps) or laptop (Windows Hello and TouchID), streamlines the deployment of passwordless authentication.
- Better IT control and visibility: Since passwordless authentication is more secure, IT teams are able to better ensure that only the right individuals have access to the data and apps available to them.
What are the challenges of implementing passwordless authentication?
While passwordless authentication presents plenty of benefits for businesses, it is not without issues. For one, aside from buying the necessary hardware, business owners also have to cover the setup and configuration costs. There may also be some employees who refuse to move away from traditional security methods.
Despite these issues, however, one thing is clear: passwordless authentication can help businesses provide a more secure working environment for their employees.
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