Introduction to Passwordless Authentication

Passwordless Authentication revolutionizes traditional authentication methods by eliminating the need for passwords or security questions. Instead, users authenticate their identity using other means, such as biometrics (fingerprint, facial recognition, voice), possession-based factors (hardware tokens, certificates), or mobile applications. This method, often integrated with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions, significantly enhances security while simplifying user experiences.

Types of Authentication Factors

Authentication factors fall into three categories: knowledge (what you know), possession (what you have), and inherence (what you are). Passwordless authentication primarily utilizes possession or inherence factors, ensuring stronger and more secure authentication processes.

Possession Factors in Passwordless Authentication

Certificate-based authentication, hardware tokens, and Time-based One-Time Passwords (TOTPs) are popular forms of possession-based passwordless authentication. TOTPs generate time-sensitive codes, often used through smartphone apps like Google Authenticator or hardware devices. Additionally, authentication via sent OTPs or notifications to trusted devices enhances security by eliminating the need for traditional passwords.

Inherence Factors in Passwordless Authentication

Biometrics, including fingerprints, face scans, and voiceprints, offer secure authentication by verifying unique biological traits. Some systems also integrate government-issued identification documents for digital verification, although this method presents challenges in digital authentication.

How can your business benefit from Passwordless Authentication

First, and the most obvious: it enhances user experience by eliminating password fatigue. For the user, this means not having to remember your username and password, regularly changing it, and making sure it fulfills numerous (and often weird) complexity requirements.

For your IT or security team, it removes operational routines to handle forgotten, lost, and expired passwords. It also strengthens security by reducing vulnerabilities associated with passwords, which makes your security team happier. 

Your software engineering department will not need to build and maintain complex architectures to manage and store passwords, freeing up more time to focus on the features bringing direct business value. 

Your brand or company image can also benefit from avoiding risks coming from traditional password-based authentication. 

It couldn't be that ideal

Despite its advantages, passwordless authentication has certain limitations. First, the complexity and costs could be higher than traditional password-based systems. The inability to reset biometric information once compromised is also a concern. We also need to secure the recovery flow when users lose their security keys or upgrade their laptops or phones, acting as a platform authenticator.

These are just a few potential challenges we must overcome when adopting Passwordless Authentication. But the result is worth the effort.

How to Implement Passwordless Authentication

If you want to get more technical details, please check out our article on Medium: Passwordless Authentication with WebAuthn.

And if you are looking for a tech partner who can help you implement it - just drop us a message via the Get in Touch form or straight to our email: