By Zachary Amos, Features Editor at ReHack
Managing passwords online can be a task. To deter cyber-attackers, users have to create long, complex passwords for each account.
However, it is necessary — especially since high rates of data breaches occur every year. In 2021, there were a total of 1,291 breaches reported in comparison to 1,108 in 2020.
Yet, many are hopeful for the future where no one has to constantly update passwords to keep data secure. The good news is, though, a passwordless internet is becoming the new reality. And major tech players like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are paving the way.
What Is Passwordless Authentication?
Passwordless authentication allows users to access an IT system or application without entering a password or answering security questions. Instead, the user provides another form of authentication. They might use a fingerprint, a hardware token code, or a proximity badge.
Many users often utilize passwordless authentication alongside multi-factor authentication and single sign-on. IT enhances the experience, improves security, and reduces IT operational costs. One of the most prevalent examples of this method is Apple’s devices. Touch ID and Face ID allow you to create passwordless logins.
Another example is Google’s Smart Lock app, which allows users to tap a button on their iOS or Android device to log in to their Google account.
Why Organizations Are Taking a New Approach to Passwords
The main issue with passwords is that they’re vulnerable to hackers. That’s why some organizations opt for a different approach to securing accounts.
For years, cybersecurity has become a top priority — pushing companies to create the strongest passwords possible. Meanwhile, other companies are digitizing their operations by implementing cybersecurity automation — which reduces the need for human activity.
While following these best practices is essential, there will always be security risks with password use.
By nature, humans are lazy when creating and remembering individual passwords. It’s often a great challenge for many. Plus, there’s handling the overwhelm of changing expired passwords once workers return to the office post-COVID-19. Thus, passwordless authentication is becoming a better alternative.
The Benefits of Passwordless Authentication
Passwordless authentication can ease the process of creating and memorizing long passwords. It also reduces the risk of someone hacking into an account. It is no surprise that IT experts are looking for the latest solution to avoid passwords altogether.
Thanks to the numerous benefits, many industry leaders believe passwordless authentication will be the future. Some of the greatest advantages it offers include:
- Strong Security
Instead of risking vulnerability with passwords, the passwordless authentication method can automatically strengthen security. As a result, it is more complex and expensive for hackers to make their way into sensitive information.
- Better Productivity
Fewer passwords come at an additional advantage. Users can experience periodic password resets and less downtime due to forgotten passwords, increasing productivity.
- Fewer Costs
Password-reset requests are often associated with more costs. Yet, passwordless authentication presents opportunities for cost reduction. It eliminates reset requests and increases focus on the more critical tasks at hand.
Just because something is more secure doesn’t mean implementation will happen right away. The rate of passwordless authentication adoption is slowly making its way. However, the costs and complexity of migration present some significant challenges.
Another difficulty that some may overlook is embracing this new method. Many users may retain the old-school mentality and be reluctant to transition to a new security method.
Are Passwordless Options More Secure?
Doing away with passwords also presents some other security risks.
First, a hacker can intercept a verification code. Passwordless methods send these codes via email or text message. What’s more concerning is how hackers can trick facial recognition and fingerprint systems.
Sometimes they can achieve this by stealing biometric data. As a result, this forces users to deal with the complexity of resetting their face scans or fingerprints.
Secondly, some passwordless options still ask for a PIN or security questions to answer. Therefore, this isn’t too different than having a password.
Third, the passwordless option requires users to own smartphones or other newer devices. While most people own a smartphone, their devices still range dramatically in age and internal hardware.
What to Expect in the Future
Many organizations believe password-free security will be the future. However, the future also relies on whether everyone will own a smartphone. According to Pew Research, 85% of Americans own a smartphone device.
To integrate passwordless secure logins, users must use their own devices employing biometric authentication. Therefore, this would require all users to carry around devices each time they log in to applications and networks.
On the other hand, if a device stores a digital certificate and the user loses it, this becomes tricky. Who would users report their lost device to — and would they have to tell a bank when they lost the phone with the relevant signifier?
While passwordless authentication is unlikely to become the primary approach anytime soon, many experts believe it will eventually happen. However, it may take a few years and technological improvements to reach that point.
Keep Your Passwords Secure
It’s uncertain when passwordless authentication will become mainstream. However, it’s still vital for companies to ensure they use password security best practices until then.
Additionally, regularly resetting strong passwords is crucial for maintaining proper cybersecurity measures. Hackers will always find ways to gain access. Therefore, it’s best to stay ahead of them and implement the most robust security possible.
As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics. He is a frequent contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine.