A Future Without Passwords

Since the 1960s, passwords have been a critical element of interacting with computers and other digital devices. From the pin we use with our bank cards to the credentials we use for our email, passwords are ingrained in every one of our digital interactions. And yet, from a security standpoint, passwords have never been a good form of authentication. Shortly after the first passwords were implemented on terminals, the first security breaches followed.

These days, things are much worse. Since 2020, the number of compromised credentials floating around the dark web has risen over 60% to 24 billion. With about eight billion people on the planet, this puts the running average for compromised accounts at three per individual.

The Problems With Passwords

Many compromised credentials belong to people who practice good password habits, such as using complex, unique passwords for all their accounts. The problem with passwords is twofold:

  • They're knowable pieces of information
  • They establish a single point of entry

Imagine living in a home secured with a combination lock — not unlike the ones used on bicycles or briefcases. If this sounds unappealingly insecure, it's because it is. Except passwords are worse. Between data breaches, brute-force hacking, phishing and social engineering, passwords are more vulnerable than secure. Even the strongest passwords still provide a single access point for scammers to target.

What About 2FA and MFA?

Many businesses and individuals have turned to two-factor authentication to strengthen security. While adding additional layers of authentication improves security moderately, 2FA methods are by no means hardened safe havens of account security. First-generation methods still use the same insecure password to log in with, but with an additional step.

New implementations of MFA may stuff a password in a database, requiring multiple independent logins and a secure token before a user can authenticate. And yet, after going through all the trouble of validating tokens, waiting on text messages, and authenticating multiple times, at its core, MFA still depends on passwords.

Even if multi-factor methods didn't depend on passwords, they're inherently flawed. In certain circumstances, they can be less secure than a well-crafted password.

For example:

  • Plenty of MFA implementations use SMS to deliver authentication codes. But SMS communication is notoriously insecure and easily interceptable.
  • Many users leave their push notifications viewable from lock screens. This makes notification codes no more secure than a password scribbled on paper.
  • Most implementations of one-time passwords are frustrating for users. This often results in the user logging in with alternative methods or products.

The bottom line is if there's a password anywhere in the process, the system is inherently insecure.

The alternative is passwordless authentication. But seeing as how ingrained passwords are in digital culture, authenticating without a password can be challenging to imagine. How does someone log in to a website or platform if there aren't any passwords, keyphrases or PINs?

What Is Passwordless Authentication?

Incidentally, passwordless authentication is rather straightforward. As the name implies, it's a method of authenticating that doesn't use a password. There aren't any keyphrase generators or obfuscated tokens that contain authentication keys. With true passwordless authentication, passwords simply don't exist.

Assuming your home's front door isn't secured with a bike lock, you probably use a physical key to lock it up. Passwordless authentication isn't all that different.

Instead of vulnerable passwords, users authenticate with something they possess, such as their phone or laptop. Specifically, they use biometric hardware to authenticate through facial recognition, fingerprint scanning or both.

How Passwordless Authentication Works

In the case of passwordless authentication using biometric scanning, the devices you use have a cryptographic data store called a Trusted Platform Module, which is virtually inaccessible from a security standpoint. When a user logs in via passwordless authentication, the TPM validates a public key against its private key and certifies the login.

While this sounds like another form of password validation, there's a key distinction. Data within TPMs aren't viewable, accessible, or knowable. Hackers and scammers can't access cryptographic certificates, and neither can you. Trusted platform modules are veritable black boxes.

What passwordless effectively boils down to is that you authenticate with something you have — your physical device and your biometric authentication methods, such as your face or fingerprint. With a password, regardless of the techniques used, you're logging in with something you know. And if you can know it, so can anyone else.

The Benefits of Going Passwordless

The biggest benefit of going passwordless is that you simply remove the vulnerability altogether. If there's no password to hack, crack, phish or steal, the seal is closed with no way in — permanently. Nor are there any risks of password slips, like writing one down on a sticky note and leaving it in the open. Even social engineering is useless

Aside from the obvious, creating a passwordless platform provides a number of business benefits:

  • Increased security: Even without passwords, no system is 100% secure. But with passwordless technology, user authentication is re-established every time they access the platform, lowering the chances of account compromise through other means.
  • Reduced support requests: A significant portion of support requests, regardless of the platform or app, are related to accounting access. But without passwords, protocols, handshakes, and multiple authentication stages, friction is eliminated.
  • A better user experience: When you're users aren't fiddling with CAPTCHa prompts and email verifications, they're using your systems. Passwordless leads to far better user experiences, which means higher conversions, higher retention, and happier customers.

When you remove the gaping vulnerabilities of passwords, life is easier for everyone involved. Your users are safer and have much better experiences, and you don't have to worry about password-related vulnerabilities, making your code and platforms more secure across the board.

Auth Armor's Open Approach

If you're even remotely familiar with technology, you likely know how terrible passwords are. Fighting password woes is an uphill battle, and it's getting harder, but it's not a new fight. MFA and 2FA have been around for years now with little success.

Likewise, the FIDO Alliance — an industry association created to end passwords — was started ten years ago. And in fact, many large enterprises and corporations already use passwordless implementations based on FIDO standards. There's not a lot that's new here.

What is new is now small businesses, and independent developers can give their users the same level of protection through Auth Armor's open platform. With a state-of-the-art biometric authenticator and a simple authentication platform, you can ditch passwords for good anywhere you support users. No more registrations, no more password resets, and no more data vulnerabilities.

Auth Armor makes it easy for you to transition to the passwordless future by providing authentication apps that work with various platforms and biometric devices, from facial recognition on mobile phones to fingerprint scanners on laptops, all built on the latest FIDO standards.

And it's an easy transition, too. Since Auth Armor makes it simple to set up WebAuthn methods for users without access to devices with biometric scanners. Easily generate Magiclink emails so your users can log in with a simple tap or click. Easy access to your software and platforms with no passwords to remember — your user will love it.

The Passwordless Future is Here

If you're interested in learning more about Auth Armor's passwordless authentication platform and how it can rid your platform of vulnerable passwords, we'd love to chat. Checkout out website to explore live demos and sign up in just a few steps to begin a free trial, and explore Auth Armor's robust and open approach to authentication. Our team is always available to answer any questions.