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A New Era of Security: Passwordless Authentication

Passwords were created to block unwanted users from accessing systems and networks. Today, they have become the weakest link in cybersecurity. As hackers continue to compromise the personal data of millions worldwide, an examination of major breaches has revealed the common attack vector: the simple password. Attackers can easily acquire passwords which place individuals at risk and create internal challenges including IT maintenance, financial recovery and maintaining user trust; however, a new era of IT is kicking passwords to the curb and adopting a safer method of security protection.

Passwordless authentication is a method of verifying user identity that does not require the user to provide a password. Instead, user identity can be proven based on anything that uniquely identifies them including a biometric signature, registered mobile device or even knowledge-based authentication.

Moving towards a passwordless world will offer stronger security and user experience, and bring a variety of new benefits:

  • Improved User Experience: Memorizing passwords and going through the process of changing or recovering a forgotten password is no longer necessary. The streamlined authentication process is easy and time efficient.
  • Stronger Security: Passwordless authentication uses a multifactor authentication (MFA) system to validate user identity and grant user access only when two or more pieces of evidence are presented. This process can quickly evaluate the user’s identity through his or her IP address, geo-location or biometric signature and analyzes the factors to authorize access. Machine learning based analysis continuously ‘learns’ user behavior, making it easier to detect fraudulent activity.
  • Efficient IT Workforce: Passwords are expensive and require constant maintenance from the IT staff. Passwordless authentication reduces the time staff members spend working on password related issues and saves the budget.
  • More Control and Visibility: IT reclaims complete visibility over identity and access management. Phishing, password reuse and password sharing are common issues faced when relying on passwords, but eliminated with passwordless authentication.

Research has confirmed that passwords are the weakest link in security and are responsible for 81% of data breaches. Putting an end to simple passwords will reduce the threat of attacks, but information can still be at risk. While a passwordless world offers a more secure and convenient authentication process, a user account is still susceptible to being compromised by insider threats or backend data breaches.

Microsoft is among many companies developing alternatives to simple passwords, but as expected, these alternatives face challenges too. For example, facial recognition software has been tricked by photos of individuals to bypass security systems. Identity will continue to become a top-level priority for companies as employees are a common link to an organization’s security threats.

In the meantime, passwords will hang around for a while, aided by two-factor authentication and MFA. Adopting passwordless authentication will help lay the foundation for future robust security environments and improve security measures across all industries.