Passwords are the widely used universal authentication method but are vulnerable to a wide variety of attacks as well. Cyberattacks such as social engineering, phishing, and malware make passwords vulnerable. Many organizations have adopted multifactor authentication or MFA, which is known to reduce risk, but the password still remains the weak link.
Passwords also have the ability to create conflict in login workflows, degrading user and customer experience. Taking effective steps to increase security, such as requiring long, strong, and complex passwords and requiring periodic password changes, provokes people’s frustration.
However, technical constraints make a universal approach to passwordless authentication difficult. Here are the three main approaches to passwordless authentication used in firms today.
Replacing a legacy password as the sole authentication factor
Single-factor authentication is one option for passwordless authentication, that is based on other types of knowledge. Research shows that these kinds of passwords are easier for people to remember and provide a better overall user experience than passwords. However, the growth of these techniques has been.
Tokens are also used as a single-factor authentication method. Smartphones or Fast IDentity Online security keys known as FIDO2 are two options for token authentication.
Finally, biometric authentication, using a fingerprint, face, or other biometric traits for security, is the most well-established and globally used passwordless authentication. Currently, they are widely used in smartphones and personal computers.
Replacing a legacy password as one factor in MFA
MFA is most often thought of as a combination of a password and some other form of authentication, such as an SMS code. However, PIN-protected or biometric-enabled smart cards can eliminate the password as a component of MFA. PIN-protected passwords are reasonably common for Windows PCs, but support for other devices remains irregular. Biometric-enabled passwords, which use a biometric method instead of a PIN to enable the use of credentials on the card, are still quite uncommon.
Eliminating authentication factors altogether
A third option is to eliminate authentication factors altogether, also known as “zero-factor authentication.” In this situation, authentication and access management tools can evaluate multiple familiarity recognition signals to elevate trust in a particular identity.
Some tools support rule-based evaluation of network, location, and device signals to provide passwordless login. This method must only be used within a continuous adaptive risk and trust assessment approach. Negative signals must be evaluated along with familiarity signals.
Deciding on a passwordless authentication method
Firms must evaluate a variety of factors, such as the total cost of control, before investing in any passwordless authentication tool.
Additionally, people may not be comfortable going passwordless. Biometric methods might prompt privacy concerns, while zero-factor authentication methods could be perceived as “unsafe.”
The more an organization inclines towards the cloud, the easier passwordless authentication will be, enabled by access management tools. However, the complexity of the firm’s technology must be kept in mind, as complicated approaches will make it more difficult to adopt a single passwordless authentication approach.
Even in moderately complex computing environments, it’s not yet feasible to eliminate passwords everywhere. Craft a cohesive strategy with the fewest moving parts to implement passwordless authentication across key use cases. Focus on what provides the most business value.
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