While we've been promised a more secure, password-free future for years now, it seems like 2022 will be the year that millions of people start to move away from passwords altogether.
Managing your online passwords can be tedious. Yet, creating long, complicated passwords that deter cyber thieves has become necessary. This is understandable considering the record number of data breaches in the U.S. last year.
Authentication methods that do not require a password are becoming more popular - not just because passwords have security vulnerabilities and reduce protection, but also because they create friction and make it difficult for users. No one wants the hassle of inventing a multi-letter, multi-number combination. Such passwords are hard to remember and easy to guess, steal and crack. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) with a password-less authentication solution offers better access management and a more pleasant user experience. Microsoft's Authenticator smartphone app is one such example of this technology.
What password-less options already exist?
In September 2021, Microsoft announced that its users could go entirely password-less to access services like Windows, Xbox, and Microsoft 365. Rather than entering a PIN or password each time, Microsoft users can use Windows Hello or Microsoft Authenticator apps, which utilize fingerprint or facial recognition technologies to login securely.
Microsoft also allows you to log in using a verification code sent to your phone or email, as well as with a physical security key that connects into your computer and uses encryption tailored to you and your device.
In a way, a password-less world has already arrived: according to Microsoft, "nearly 100%" of the firm's employees use password-free methods to access their corporate accounts. Full adoption of this technology across every industry would surely take some time, but it looks as though this future is inevitable for everyone in the modern workforce.
Benefits of password-less authentication
Deploying password-less authentication can significantly enhance security. The lack of passwords to phish or leak makes you less vulnerable to phishing and account takeover assaults.
A password-less approach to authentication also enhances the user experience. Employees and customers can access your services without having to remember complex passwords and type them over and over. Password fatigue and management can be eliminated by deploying biometric authentication options such as a fingerprint or facial scan to achieve a seamless user experience. By combining two factors, such as something the user has (like an authentication code on their mobile device), and the user themself (like a fingerprint or facial recognition), you can obtain a much stronger two-factor authentication (2FA) than authentication solely based on passwords.
Potential risks of going password-less
Going password-less doesn't come completely risk-free; there are still methods that more tech-savvy hackers use to intercept your information. Things like verification codes sent via email or text can be stolen during use. Even scarier: Hackers have shown the ability to trick fingerprint and facial recognition systems, sometimes by stealing your biometric data. As annoying as changing your password might be, changing your face or fingerprints is much harder.
Second, several of today's password-free alternatives still require you to generate a PIN or security questions to back up your account, which isn't much different from having a password.
Third, there's the problem of widespread adoption. The majority of password-less features require you to own a smartphone or some other modern device. While the majority of Americans have a smartphone, their phones vary considerably in terms of age and internal hardware.
Overall, many people believe the benefits of going password-less outweigh the risks. While the time for wordy, difficult-to-remember passwords ends, the rise of multi-factor and even biometric authentication begins, taking its place at the forefront of the cyber-secure future.
It's easy to take password security for granted or assume that a breach will never happen to you but having tools that provide proactive protection is an affordable way to secure your accounts and stay protected for years to come. Contact our team for a free 30-minute cybersecurity assessment. We'll assess the technology that you have today, identify opportunities for improvement, and help you prepare for tomorrow.