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What is passwordless authentication?

This authentication method has gained popularity in recent years. More secure and much more convenient for users, let’s take a closer look at how this technology works.

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What exactly is passwordless authentication?

It is an authentication method that verifies a user’s identity using an additional factor other than the traditional password or security question.

Most often, a strong authentication system, or MFA, is used to access an application or a computer system.

How does passwordless authentication work?

Passwordless authentication relies on a cryptographic key pair which uses a private key (only known by the owner) and a public key (can be known by others). We can picture this as the public key being the lock and the private key being the only key to open this lock.

The public key is generated upon enrollment in the authentication service while the private key is stored on the user’s trusted device and can only be accessed when providing secure proof of identity i.e the the second factor (this one not being a password of course).

Which benefits for going passwordless?

Organizations will find many functional and business benefits when switching to passwordless authentication for their users, whether they are customers, employees or partners.

Improves user experience

The #1 benefit of passwordless authentication is that users no longer need to remember and update long and complex passwords. In fact, they will be able to enjoy a simple and rapid login experience while having a unified access to applications and services.

Strengthen security

Passwordless authentication is also known to eliminate risky password management practices and reduce credential theft and other cyberattacks (Phishing, Man in the Middle, Brute force, credential stuffing). It is a common fact that when having to use a password, users often take risky shortcuts like using the same password for all applications, or using easy and thus weak passwords such a “1234”, or even writing them down on a notepad. This explains why compromised account credentials are a leading cause of data breaches.

80% of the largest data leaks are due to weak or compromised passwords.

Simplifies IT operations

For IT teams, passwords are a burden in many ways. When enabling passwordless authentication, IT teams no longer need to store, secure, rotate, reset, and manage passwords. In short, it allows them to be more productive, save time and energy.

What are the different types of passwordless authentication?

There are a few commonly-used passwordless authentication methods chosen by organizations such as:

  • Biometrics: Fingerprint, voice or facial recognition, or retina scanning
  • PIN code: usually 4 to 6 digit PIN code
  • SMS and email-based passwordless authentication
  • Hardware tokens, or USB devices

Why combine Multifactor authentication (MFA) and passwordless authentication?

Over the years, multifactor authentication (MFA) has become a key element to achieve a Zero Trust environment. “Passwordless MFA” is a way to take advantage of both the benefits of an MFA solution and those of passwordless authentication.

Passwordless MFA often use authentication factors such as the user’s registered trusted device together with a PIN code or a biometric factor.

However, not all multi-factor authentication solutions (MFA) are equal, as the technologies used are often very different. You must take a closer look when making your choice.

It is an authentication method that verifies a user’s identity using an additional factor other than the traditional password or security question. Most commonly, passwordless authentication is used to access applications or a network and involves a PIN code or biometrics.

It allows organisations to improve the login experience of their users (employees and/or customers) while enhancing security since it involves a multi-factor authentication (MFA) system. In addition, moving to passwodless simplifies IT operations with fewer calls to the helpdesk for forgotten passwords.

This authentication method relies on a cryptographic key pair which uses a private key and a public key. The public key is generated upon enrollment in the authentication service while the private key is stored on the user’s trusted device. This key is only accessible after the user provides a secure proof of identity, i.e. the second factor which is not a password in the case of Passwordless.