Despite being widely used for authentication, passwords are by far the weakest link in cybersecurity today. With easy-to-remember and reused passwords especially vulnerable to a wide range of attacks, passwords alone do not provide adequate security for sensitive information and systems.
That is why many organizations are now actively looking to replace legacy passwords with more secure authentication factors. In fact, technology research giant Gartner predicts that by 2022, 60% of large companies and 90% of mid-sized businesses will go passwordless in more than half of use cases.
Let’s take a closer look at why using passwords is problematic, then see how implementing passwordless authentication can help boost your business’s cybersecurity.
Passwords alone do not provide adequate security for sensitive information and systems.
What’s the problem with passwords?
Modern workers rely on a variety of applications to perform their jobs. To ensure they have continuous access to these programs, they must keep track of several accounts and frequently changing passwords. This can become overwhelming, which is why people often end up using easy-to-guess passwords, reusing the same password for different accounts, or even writing down passwords on sticky notes.
Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless practices make it easy for cybercriminals to guess or steal account credentials and gain access to confidential information and IT systems. In fact, compromised account credentials are among the leading causes of data breaches.
Attackers use a variety of techniques to get around simple authentication methods (i.e., those that require only username and password combinations). These include:
- Brute force attacks – using applications and scripts to generate numerous password and passphrase combinations with the hope of eventually guessing a combination correctly
- Phishing – using fraudulent emails to trick recipients into giving away their credentials and other personal information
- Credential stuffing – using stolen or leaked credentials to gain access to other accounts
- Keylogging – installing malware on a device to record everything a user types on their computer or mobile keyboard
- Man-in-the-middle attacks – intercepting communications between two parties to eavesdrop and steal account credentials or personal information
How does passwordless authentication reduce risks?
Passwordless authentication involves verifying the identity of a user without using passwords or answering security questions. Instead, users can authenticate their access credentials based on possession factors (e.g., a registered mobile device or a hardware token) or inherence factors (e.g., the user’s fingerprint or face).
With passwordless authentication, IT leaders won’t have to worry about poor password management practices. Users won’t be forced to remember and type complex passwords, thereby streamlining the authentication process and leading to a better user experience. Additionally, users will no longer need to store passwords, which can result in better security, fewer breaches, and lower support costs for organizations.
Businesses can implement a passwordless approach by:
1. Replacing legacy passwords with other authentication factors
Biometrics, such as fingerprints, facial patterns, and voice patterns, are increasingly popular authentication factors because they are harder to fake. In fact, biometric verification is widely deployed in mobile banking applications and it’s making its way into other consumer apps as well.
Other commonly used passwordless authentication methods include:
- One-time codes sent to a registered mobile device or email address
- Dedicated hardware security tokens
- Authentication credentials attached to a host device (e.g., a PKI certificate assigned to a particular PC)
2. Utilizing other factors in 2FA
Two-factor authentication (2FA) has long been held as the solution to the password problem. It strengthens access security by requiring a login credential in addition to the username/password combination. However, many users find it cumbersome to input their login credentials, then get a passcode from an authenticator, and then rush to enter the code during login before the code's validity lapses.
Fortunately, current mainstream 2FA solutions are passwordless by default. For example, there are 2FA systems that combine mobile push notifications with a one-time PIN or biometrics to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to get past the additional authentication.
However, it’s not always possible to completely eliminate passwords from 2FA and multifactor authentication. The key is to combine good password practices and robust passwordless authentication methods.
The bottom line is you shouldn’t rely on passwordless authentication alone. You must also implement proper endpoint management and security solutions to boost your organization’s cybersecurity. Online Computers provides businesses with a comprehensive, integrated suite of best-in-class security solutions that guarantee your network and devices are protected at all times. Call us today to learn more!
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