passwordless computing

For both organizations and individual users ready to switch from passwords, improved computer security is on the horizon. But despite the growing resentment for the time-consuming process of creating and typing passwords, the move away from one is progressing surprisingly slowly.

The consensus in the identity and access management industry is that using passwords to protect data is not the most secure option. For evidence, just refer to this year’s Verizon Data Investigations Breach Report. It was discovered that 29% of the approximately 42,000 security incidents involved stolen credentials, and 32% involved phishing.

Additionally, users are frequently advised to reset their passwords after being exposed in a security event. These results highlight the necessity for password-free authentication techniques.

Passwordfree and passwordless authentication are two catchphrases that are used to describe the idea of doing away with passwords. Despite their similarities, these two terms are not the same. However, they both provide methods for gaining access to digital content without using passwords. The technology used to eliminate password usage makes a significant effect.

According to Mesh Bolutiwi, director of Cyber GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) at CyberCX, the shift away from passwords is driven by more organizational requirements than merely enhancing the user experience.

“These include a strong emphasis on reducing data breaches, improving overall security posture, and reducing long-term support costs tied to password management,” he said in an interview with TechNewsWorld.

A Priority Over Convenience Is Security

By giving businesses a more effective means to satisfy relevant legal and compliance requirements, passwordless solutions also enhance user authentication and scalability.

He continued by saying that the quick development and sophistication of mobile computing devices have also significantly contributed to the deletion of passwords. On these devices, traditional authentication methods frequently fall short.

Ironically, it is this factor that is driving up the use of mobile devices for passwordless authentication. Only a small number of firms have the means to protect themselves from password-based assaults, despite the fact that they are becoming increasingly common.

Passwords are extremely susceptible to cyberattacks, which can be subtle and varied in their methods. Password-less authentication reduces this danger.

Big Tech Promoting Password-Free Options

Password substitutes are being paved by Google and Microsoft.

In June, Google made passkeys for Workspace accounts available as an open beta. It allows businesses to substitute a passkey for the users’ customary passwords when logging into a Google Workspace or Google Cloud account.

Digital credentials known as passkeys are connected to user accounts, websites, or applications. Users can log in without giving an additional authentication factor, a username, or a password.

Users can login in to any Azure Active Directory account without a password thanks to Microsoft’s Authenticator technology. It enables a user credential that is connected to a device using key-based authentication. The gadget makes use of a biometric or PIN. Similar technology is utilized by Windows Hello for Business.

Better But Not Perfect

Malware, man-in-the-browser, and other assaults are not impervious to passwordless authentication. For example, hackers can use workarounds to install malware that is intended to intercept one-time passcodes (OTPs).

Although passwordless authentication is a reliable authentication method, it is not completely secure. Whether biometrics or hardware tokens are used, the hazards frequently depend on the approach, according to Bolutiwi.

It successfully avoids the dangers of using stolen credentials. The potential loss of hardware devices, tokens, or the faking of biometric data are just a few concerns, he continued.

Nevertheless, passwordless authentication deals a serious blow to malicious actors. According to cybersecurity experts, it makes breaking into networks more challenging than regular passwords and is less vulnerable to most cyberattacks.

Comforting Windowless Entry

True passwordless authentication techniques lack a space where users can enter their passwords. It instead needs an other type of verification, such biometrics or additional devices, to verify users’ identities.

By removing phishing scams and credentials that have been stolen, this approach increases security by transmitting a certificate that allows verification.

It’s possible that different authentication strategies will gain popularity in the future. Email links, one-time passwords sent through email or SMS, facial recognition, and fingerprint scanning are a few examples.

“Passwordless solutions, however, introduce a transformative approach by eliminating the concept of passwords altogether, transitioning the onus from users managing complicated credentials to more intuitive and seamless authentication methods, thus offering a more secure paradigm,” suggested Bolutiwi.

Q&A Exploring the Pros and Cons of No Passwords

Qus: What is your view of the overall safety improvement offered by password replacement strategies?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: Passwordless still offers greater security than traditional passwords.

It is crucial to understand that no authentication mechanism is 100% secure from threats.

It is only a matter of time before new attack strategies that target possible weak areas or try to steal biometric data appear as passwordless ways grow more common.

Furthermore, the growing practice of using personal devices for passwordless authentication raises the stakes because it is difficult to mitigate risk when a person’s mobile device is compromised because it is outside the scope of organizational governance.

Qus: Would campaigning users to set up more rigorous passwords help to solve the problem and lessen the need for passwordless logins?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: Simply put, no. Even though encouraging the use of complicated passwords can increase security, this is not a perfect approach. Even with efforts to support complex password usage, problems including human error, password fatigue, phishing dangers, and improper management still exist.

Qus: Would this be a different process for non-business computer users? If so, why?

Ans [Bolutiwi]:The implementation might change, but the underlying technology would not. Users who are not in the corporate world could have simpler needs that don’t necessitate interaction with extensive enterprise programs.

Instead of stringent security compliance, other considerations like simplicity of use may have an impact on adoption rates. The latter would affect businesses significantly more than it would affect consumers.

Qus: How much impact will changing log-in methods have in overcoming software vulnerabilities?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: The risks related to password-based authentication are not reduced by just enhancing user education and enforcing stringent password regulations.

Despite being difficult, passwords can still be repeated between platforms, lost, or unsecurely recorded, making them vulnerable to numerous attacks. These might include brute-force attacks, phishing, and credential stuffing.

Qus: How would a passwordless computing world actually work?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: In a future without passwords, users would sign in using biometrics, such as voice pattern recognition, facial recognition, retina scans, or fingerprints.

They might also make use of behavioral patterns, smartphone-based authenticators, physical security keys or soft keys, or other hardware tokens. They would be recognized and authenticated using something they have or something they are without having to enter any memorized secrets.

These tangible objects create and save cryptographic keys, making sure that only those with the right token and authorization can enter. The same idea as digital certificates is used by these.

Qus: Tell us how this passwordless process works behind the scenes.

Ans [Bolutiwi]: Users may be asked to scan their fingerprints using a mobile smartphone or other biometric equipment when attempting to enter into an online resource. While enrolling for the online resource, a user’s public key is provided behind the scenes.

But in order to access the private key, which is kept on the user’s device, the user would have to perform a biometric-related action. The public key and private key are then compared, and access is given if the keys match.

Qus: What needs to happen to implement passwordless entry for business networks?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: Organizations thinking about switching to passwordless authentication must take a variety of factors into account. Infrastructure improvements are essential. To accept passwordless systems, it would be necessary to upgrade or replace the current systems.

Integrating passwordless solutions with current systems and applications while also doing thorough testing is essential during this phase. Additionally, companies must assess the difficulties associated with integrating and sustaining outdated systems, which could be incompatible with standards for passwordless authentication.

Additionally, businesses need to determine whether their current technology environment is compatible with potential password-free systems, account for the cost of new installations, system adjustments, or upgrades, and determine their level of cloud usage.

Qus: What role might the human element play once the hardware is in place?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: It is impossible to ignore the human factor. User education is essential, including both the purpose and use of new authentication tools.

Organizations should also be aware of possible user resistance because of a lack of understanding or opposition to this unique technique, particularly when passwordless approaches depend on personal devices.

Qus: How would multiple authentication factors play into transitioning to a passwordless computing environment?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: Passwordless systems and multi-factor authentication (MFA) together fortify the authentication process, greatly raising security.

Even without entering a password, combining a user’s possessions—such as a phone or token—with an innate characteristic—such as a biometric feature—presents difficult obstacles for hackers trying to duplicate both.

Passwordless techniques that incorporate MFA reduce the dangers brought on by a single point of vulnerability. In the end, this improves system and data security and enables a more seamless transition to a world without passwords.

Qus: What is the advantage of MFA over relying solely on biometrics or encryption?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: Cryptographic keys can theoretically be cracked and biometrics imitated on their own. Multiple authentication layers significantly reduce the likelihood of successful security breaches.

The zero-trust security paradigm is in line with this comprehensive approach, which emphasizes ongoing access evaluation based on a variety of factors rather than a sole dependence on passwords.

Qus: What are the primary obstacles to adopting a passwordless system?

Ans [Bolutiwi]: The main barriers to making the switch to passwordless authentication are compatibility with existing systems, user aversion to change, and financial limitations.

Additionally, the financial implications of this hardware transformation may put a burden on an organization’s finances. Additionally, overcoming consumers’ inherent apprehension or ignorance while using their own devices for authentication may act as a roadblock to adoption.