What is passwordless authentication?

Passwordless authentication refers to a method that allows users to log in to an application or IT system without the use of a password. By this method, users can authenticate themselves via physical security keys, apps, or biometrics. This process eliminates the need to create or remember a static password to both provide a better, more streamlined user experience and increased security due to eliminating the vulnerability of passwords.

what is passwordless authentication
What is Passwordless Authentication?

How Does Passwordless Authentication Work?

Passwordless authentication is a method that allows users to log into an application or IT system without the use of a password. This method focuses on verifying the identity of a user with something other than a password. 

Passwordless Authentication is a superior alternative to Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA), which is less reliable. Rather than relying on the user’s knowledge of a string of random numbers and letters, passwordless authentication utilizes a unique “possession factor” to identify the user. This can be as simple as a push notification on your cell phone or a biometric like your face or fingerprint. Using this form of authentication, a new, unique, authenticating message is generated and used every time a login request is made, meaning no credentials are fixed within the passwordless platform. Therefore, there is no information to be stolen that could replicate your unique login key. Unlike a password, a fraudster cannot easily find and exploit your information. 

Passwordless Authentication Use Cases and Industries

Passwordless Authentication is relevant to all industries no matter what your business does. 

Passwords are easily compromised by bad actors and prone to human error, making them one of the most unreliable ways to authenticate someone in our modern digital era. Passwordless Authentication serves to be a solution to the unreliability of passwords and an upgrade/simplification to the overall user experience.

Tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google are huge proponents of passwordless authentication and are currently at the forefront of its implementation. As recently as the beginning of May 2022, all three companies announced plans to enable passwordless authentication for billions of devices in an attempt to make employees less exposed to password fraud and deliver a better user experience.

This technology is not only relevant to large companies like the above, but also can be beneficial for any company that works with sensitive or personal consumer, employee, or vendor information. The added security and seamless and simple UI also can benefit from the added security and even retailers can benefit from a seamless and simple UI. 

What are the Benefits and Advantages to Using Passwordless Authentication? 

Passwordless authentication provides a better user experience, an upgrade in security, reduction of total cost of password management, and gives IT more control and security. 

This modern form of authentication eliminates the threats and vulnerabilities that passwords have such as being vulnerable to phishing, password spraying, password reuse, credential stuffing, brute force attacks, etc.

Passwordless authentication doesn’t just protect against malicious attacks but also greatly reduces the room for user error when it comes to forgetting passwords. The average person has around 100 passwords they need to keep track of and spends around 12.6 minutes each week resetting them. Not only is this a pain to the user but it is also extremely costly to companies. On average each password reset costs a company $70 with some estimates being as high as $120. This equates to millions of dollars companies lose each year due to password management issues. With passwordless authentication, the user is no longer the wild card in the organization identity scheme and IT gains more control and visibility over accounts.

All in all passwordless authentication is mutually beneficial to consumers and providers.

What Are Some of the Latest Passwordless Authentication Methods?

Passwordless authentication is merely an umbrella term and there are several different ways that this can be realized and applied.

Types of Passwordless Authentication 

  1. Biometrics: Using your unique physical features and characteristics to verify your Identity
  2. Magic links: A one time link sent to your email you can click on to verify your identity
  3. One-time passwords/codes: Requires you to enter a one time code sent to you by text or email
  4. Push notifications/Two factor authentication: Relying on authentication from a separate device through a notification pushed out to your mobile device through an authentication service (such as Duo, Google, or even Apple’s Two factor authentication)

While some of these methods are more reliable than others, for example a biometric being much harder to compromise than a magic link, each one serves to be significantly more secure than traditional password verification.