Information Security

Passwordless Authentication Reduces Security Risks and Costs

Passwordless authentication is the process of verifying a software user's identity using anything other than a password. The most common methods of such an authentication include verifying ownership of an additional device or user account or biometric characteristics.

Passwordless authentication can reduce costs and security risks for any organization. That is why more and more businesses are switching to passwordless authentication and implementing it in their organizations.

Why Passwordless Authentication is Better than Passwords

Passwordless authentication provides a smoother process than traditional username and password (U/P) authentication for both you and your users. It will not only save you money but may even lead to increased sales.

Reduced security risks
According to Verizon's 2021 Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR), credential vulnerabilities account for more than 84% of all data breaches. Eliminating passwords reduces the risk of data leakage because it reduces the ability of an attacker to use them (and the insecure behavior that often exposes them) against you and your users.

For example, cybercriminals often use credential entry (using compromised user credentials from a breach to gain access to another organization) to hack into an organization because more than two-thirds of people reuse their passwords. Deleting passwords makes it impossible for cybercriminals to use credentials obtained elsewhere to access accounts on your system.

Passwordless authentication reduces your organization's vulnerability to phishing attacks (tricking users into downloading malware or providing confidential information with a malicious email).

36% of all data breaches counts for phishing attacks stealing account information (usernames and passwords mostly). If you eliminate passwords, it means your users or employees will not accidentally provide attackers anything to access their accounts, even if users receive a phishing email.

Better user experience to reduce costs (and increase sales) 

The average person has to remember about 100 passwords and spends 12.6 minutes every week resetting them (often through a call to the support service). It ends up costing your organization more money in password reset and customer service time than you think.

However, implementing passwordless authentication can reduce or eliminate these costs since your users will log in without a password. It also eliminates the need to store and maintain password databases.

Eliminating passwords may increase sales for some businesses, as many surveyed IT professionals reported that they did not manage to complete a personal transaction due to a forgotten password.

Finally, user experience can be a competitive advantage for software companies (even at the enterprise level). Thus, reducing login friction can also encourage users to choose you over your competitors.

Types of authentication without a password

Traditional username and password authentication require a user to enter something they know (a password) to confirm who they are. But passwordless authentication methods require the user to demonstrate that he has something (a possession factor) or that they are something (an inherence factor), both of which are harder to get around.

The following are the most common methods used to test both inheritance factors and possession factors:

  1. "Biometrics": Many physical traits are more or less unique to each person. Biometric authentication uses these unique physical characteristics to verify whether a person is who they say they are without asking for a password. For example, the probability that two faces are the same is less than one in a trillion, so facial recognition is an effective way to verify identity.
  2. "Magic Links": Instead of asking the user for a password, this form of passwordless authentication asks the user to enter their email address in the login box. They are then sent an email with a link that they can click to log in. This process is repeated every time the user logs in.
  3. "One-time Passwords/Codes": One-time passwords (OTP) or one-time codes (OTC) are similar to magic links but require users to enter the code you send them (via email or to their mobile device via SMS) instead of simply clicking on the link. This process is repeated every time the user logs in.
  4. "Push Notifications": Users receive a push notification on their mobile devices through a dedicated authenticator application (for example, Google Authenticator) and open the app with a push notification to confirm their identity.

How to implement authentication without a password

Encoding passwordless authentication is more complicated than simply telling your development team to change the login box. However, third-party vendors offer a faster and more secure implementation that is more secure and modern than anything that can be built in-house.

A lot depends on the design of your existing Identification and Access Management (IAM) systems. But the point is that secure implementation is much more complicated and expensive than most realize and often requires dedicated resources for development over a long period (and then scaling and maintaining those systems after implementation).

As a result, many organizations prefer to work with a professional identity provider. In some cases, it can reduce the time to implement passwordless authentication for millions of users to several months. It also decreases many of the maintenance costs they would face in the future.

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