“Passwordless authentication removes the need for passwords and provides a number of business advantages. This includes enhanced user experience, reduced IT time and costs, and enhanced security.”

Introduction

To achieve transformative business objectives, stay competitive and meet user expectations, enterprises are undergoing a digital transformation. Enterprises are migrating from legacy systems to the cloud, resulting in hybrid environments. Consumer markets drive the push toward usable, mobile technology and always-on, always-available cloud, web-based applications. The move to the cloud includes customers and all types of enterprise users. These include employees, contractors, vendors, and partners. This shift to a decentralized, identity-centric operational model has placed increased importance on ensuring users’ secure access. The future of authentication demands a secure and usable method of authorizing.

The Shift in Authentication to Passwordless

Primary password authentication and multi-factor authentication (MFA) have become imperative. The 60-year-old single-factor password simply hasn’t stood the test of time. In 2019, an anonymous creator released 2.2 billion usernames and passwords freely across attacker forums. This is the largest collection of breaches. Advances in secondary factors have led many to question the need for and the use of the password at all. If strong authentication is based on multiple factors, and passwords are the most vulnerable factor, why even require them? This realization has led the industry to move toward replacing passwords with more secure and simplified methods of authentication. Tech and security analysts predict that enterprises will shift to implementing passwordless authentication for their users. This will pave the way to a modern digital transformation.

The Problem with Passwords

Passwords are Costly to Manage

Passwords take up a lot of IT and help desk support time each year. Many U.S.-based organizations have allocated over $1 million annually for password-related support costs, according to Forrester. Each year, 20-50 percent of all IT help desk tickets are for password resets, according to The Gartner Group.

Poor User Experiences

A survey on 200 IT security leaders found that 62 percent of respondents reported extreme user frustration at password lockouts. This isn’t a surprise – lockouts pause productivity and contribute to poor user login experiences. The sheer number of cloud services and passwords has increased over the years.

Easily compromised.

There are a number of password-related threats and attacks commonly used by attackers. A few examples include credential stuffing, phishing, brute-force attacks (password guessing), etc. Passwords are inherently easy for adversaries to subvert. Many users are using slightly modified old passwords for different accounts.

What is True Passwordless Authentication?

True passwordless authentication enables a strong and robust assurance of a user’s identity without depending on passwords. This enables users to authenticate using biometrics, security keys, or a mobile device. It provides secure access for every enterprise use case (hybrid, cloud, on-premises, and legacy apps). Through technology partnerships, many giant organizations are innovating toward a true passwordless future that balances usability with stronger authentication. Passwordless gives users a frictionless login experience. This mitigates administrative burden and security risks.

Benefits of Passwordless

Passwordless authentication provides a single, strong assurance of users’ identities to achieve user trust. Here are few benefits for the enterprises:

Better User Experience

By eliminating reliance on passwords, users benefit from a reduction in login fatigue and frustration.

Stronger Security Posture

Eliminating system reliance on passwords can result in the elimination of related threats and vulnerabilities. These include phishing, stolen or weak passwords, password reuse, brute-force attacks, etc.

Current Challenge

Many passwordless vendors can only solve one use case by providing fewer passwords or a password-lite experience. These vendors do not solve the inherent weakness of passwords. Modern enterprises cannot cover all of their access use cases today with a single passwordless solution. There are additional business challenges to consider,

  • Complex and Hybrid IT Environments
  • Administrative and Management Costs
  • Compliance Regulations

Path to Passwordless Future

Here are few strategic approaches to provide secure access for a fully passwordless future:

  • Identify passwordless use cases and enable strong authentication.
  • Streamline and consolidate authentication workflows.
  • Increase trust in the authentication.
  • Provide a passwordless experience.
  • Optimize the passwordless toolset.

Passwordless Offer Zero Trust

Authentication or secure access enables the shift to a mobile and cloud-first enterprise allowing users to work remotely. With identity as the new parameter, enterprises need to secure the workforce: the users and the devices accessing applications. Passwordless authentication is becoming a building block enabling zero-trust security for the workforce. A combination of user and device trust, driven by adaptive policies, ensures access to applications and data is secured. Passwordless authentication improves the workforce’s experience by strengthening trust in the authentication. This is a critical step in establishing a zero-trust architecture.

Bottom Line

Passwordless requires technology platforms like Touch ID, Face ID, and fingerprint APIs to work in tandem with hardware-based biometric authenticators. These technologies will pave the way to a passwordless future.