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Learn All About Passwordless Authentication

by | Feb 23, 2022 | BLOG

Passwordless authentication has been a recommended option for IT teams. This is due to the fragility of passwords, which justifies the frequent news about hackers and data leaks.

Also, the recommendation to periodically change passwords can encourage inappropriate behavior by the users. After all, most people choose passwords that are easy to remember and, consequently, to be identified by malicious agents.

What’s more, IT support considers spending on password usage, support, and maintenance to be a high investment, which is no longer cost-effective.

By reading this article, you will understand everything you need to know about passwordless authentication. This text contains the following information:


  • What is Passwordless Authentication, and Why is It Important?
  • How Does Passwordless Authentication Work?
  • Passwordless Authentication and Multi-factor Authentication
  • Four Tips for Implementing Passwordless Authentication
  • Is the Password a Security Feature that Can Disappear?
  • Microsoft Accounts Can Be Accessed Without Password
  • About senhasegura
  • Conclusion

Enjoy the read!

Four Tips for Implementing Passwordless Authentication

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    What is Passwordless Authentication, and Why is It Important?

    As its name suggests, passwordless authentication is an alternative to using passwords to authenticate users through advanced technologies such as:

    • Biometrics: This feature provides data security, as it allows authentication based on a person’s characteristics, which consist of unique data such as fingerprint or facial recognition verification.
    • Public/Private Key Encryption: Encryption systems rely on the concept of keys. While the private key system uses a single key for the sender and receiver, the public key system works through a pair of keys. In this case, it is not possible to encrypt and decrypt a message using the same key. 

    Passwordless authentication is also enabled by open standards such as W3C WebAuthn and Fast IDentity Online 2 (FIDO2) CTAP2.

    Its importance is because passwords lately have not been secure enough to prevent threats such as hacker attacks. Furthermore, the risks often outweigh the benefits.

    How Does Passwordless Authentication Work?

    It is possible to perform user authentication by replacing passwords with more secure means. In password authentication, the password provided by the user is compared by the system to the information present in the database.

    In the case of biometrics, the process is very similar. The difference is that, instead of passwords, the comparison takes into account people’s characteristics. As, for example, in facial recognition: after capturing users’ faces, their features are translated into numerical data, which can be compared to data stored in the system.

    On the other hand, some comparisons work differently. This is the case with SMSs sent with codes that must be entered in the login box. In practice, the system compares the data entered with the code it sent to the user. 

    Passwordless authentication is also possible via an encryption key pair with a private and a public key. In practice, the public key works like a padlock, which can be opened using the private key.

    This is stored on a local device and can only be accessed with an authentication factor, which can be an ownership factor, such as a hardware token, biometrics, or magic links.

    In the case of magic links, they work as follows: you must enter your email address, then you receive a message with a link to click on and gain access to the system.

    Passwordless Authentication and Multi-factor Authentication

    Passwordless authentication relates to multi-factor authentication, as passwords are replaced by one or more identification factors used by MFA

    In addition, even those who still prefer to bet on protecting their accounts through passwords should consider adding more identification factors to ensure the security of credentials. These resources are divided into:

    • Knowledge Factors: Such as an SMS code or even a password;
    • Ownership Factors: Tokens, which we mentioned in this article, are a good example; and
    • Inheritance Factors: Such as fingerprint and facial recognition.

    Multi-factor authentication can be confused with two-factor authentication, which is also known as 2FA. The difference is that the first uses different factors, combining, for example, a knowledge factor and an inheritance factor. The second can use a password and an SMS, two knowledge factors.

    Four Tips for Implementing Passwordless Authentication

    Do you want to implement passwordless authentication? Check out these four tips to do it efficiently:

    1. Choose the authentication mode that is right for you. The options include: fingerprints, facial recognition, OTPs received via SMS, hardware tokens, and magic links.
    2. Regardless of whether you use a password or not, we recommend the adoption of more than one authentication factor to ensure more security for your data.
    3. You may have to purchase hardware if you choose to authenticate through biometrics, for example. However, some means such as magic links only require the use of software.
    4. For passwordless authentication to be functional, you will have to add the data of people who will access the systems. That is, if you have a company and choose the facial recognition system, you will need to register the faces of your employees.

      Is the Password a Security Feature that Can Disappear?

    Despite being an increasingly vulnerable security approach, passwords continue to be used by people and companies. And the reason is its low cost of deployment and ease of use. Also, many legacy devices may not support passwordless authentication methods.

    However, we believe this situation will soon change, since companies, according to the information we brought in this article, are already feeling the damage caused by intrusions, and are increasingly investing in authentication resources, such as biometrics.

    Moreover, the legislation that currently regulates data security, such as the LGPD, is quite strict in the event of data breaches, which creates one more concern and one more reason to invest in passwordless authentication

     Microsoft Accounts Can Be Accessed Without Password

    As of September 2021, Microsoft users can log in using passwordless authentication, employing identification mechanisms to replace them. This means you can verify your identity through the following features:

    • Physical Security Key;
    • SMS;
    • Email;
    • Windows Hello; and
    • Microsoft Authenticator.

    This innovation is justified by the need to reduce cases of intrusion, since most people access their Microsoft accounts with passwords that are easy to discover. In addition to Microsoft, Apple and Google have also embraced passwordless login alternatives, although they have not completely abandoned the username/password paradigm. 

    About senhasegura

    We provide digital sovereignty to organizations about actions and privileged information, as we work to prevent information theft and trace the actions of administrators on networks, servers, databases, and a multitude of devices. 

    We also bring companies into compliance with audit requirements and the most demanding standards, including PCI DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley, ISO 27001, and HIPAA. 

    Conclusion

    In this article, we explained why passwords are no longer considered by many IT professionals to be an effective means for ensuring cybersecurity. We also covered the importance of passwordless authentication and how this feature can and should be implemented.

     If you liked our article, please share this content with anyone else who might be interested in passwordless authentication.

     

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