How to Implement Passwordless Authentication

January 27, 2022
eHImplement Passwordless Authentication

There are so many problems in IT that center around passwords. Forgetting passwords, sharing passwords, having passwords breached. What if that could all be a problem of the past? Passwordless authentication is an authentication model that doesn’t rely upon passwords to verify a user’s identity — and it makes the process of authentication easier for everyone involved.

Why is Passwordless Authentication Better?

You may have already noticed passwordless authentication in your everyday life. Start to log into a financial site, and you could find that instead of asking you for a password, it asks you for your phone number. Once you verify your access through your phone, you’re already in. Many companies are moving toward passwordless authentication as a method of both simplifying and improving security.

Under passwordless authentication, a user’s biometrics or possessions are used to verify the user’s identity rather than a password. A user might have a physical device (a keycard, YubiKey, phone, or another type of dongle) or a biometric signature (a fingerprint or a face, even a voice print) or any combination of these. But what they don’t need is a password they remember.

Benefits include:

  • Being inherently more secure. If there’s no password, there’s no password to be compromised or to share. Passwordless authentication reduces many opportunities for employees to be lax about their security.

  • Improving costs. A passwordless system is easier and faster to manage, reducing IT expenditures. If the system is unified, it’s less work for the IT department as well — they only have a single system to maintain.

  • A superior user experience. Users aren’t required to remember or to update their passwords to log in. They will find the process of authentication both faster and easier.

But a jump to passwordless authentication does take some time. You need to do your research, prepare your users, update your processes, and change your core IT infrastructure.

How Do You Select a Passwordless Solution?

There are different types of passwordless solutions. The most common forms of passwordless authentication include:

  • One-time passwords and codes. A one-time password or code is sent to an email address or a phone. The user logs in by entering in this password or code, rather than using a static password.

  • Push notifications or native authentication. An app on the user’s device prompts them to verify their entry. The user simply taps on a button to confirm that they are logging in.

  • Magic links. A link is sent to the user, through text or email, to log them in. The user clicks on the link, and they are redirected back to the site to be logged in.

  • Biometrics. A user’s physical traits are used to verify them. The user scans a fingerprint, eye, or face, and this makes it possible for them to log in.

In addition to the type of passwordless solution, you’ll also need to choose the platform. There are platforms such as Windows Hello for Business that are designed to support passwordless authentication.

The type of authentication and the platform you use will be highly dependent on your organization, its needs, and its need for integration.

Passwordless Authentication Services

Preparing Your Team to Go Passwordless

If you want a truly passwordless solution, you need your team prepared for a shift in processes and infrastructure. Passwordless solutions are more secure. But there are things to think about.

First, if you’re using phone numbers or texts to secure accounts, you also need to make sure that the user’s devices are secured. You will need to link into business phones and may need to deploy business phones to your team if not already deployed. Then, if you’re using emails for OTP passcodes or magic links, you need to make sure that each user’s emails are secure, and that they understand the importance of securing their emails.

One of the major advantages of passwordless authentication is that it’s intuitive. Your employees will be walked through each step of the process by the platform itself. But it still is a change that needs to be discussed with your team — and some training may need to occur throughout the transition.

Deploy Passwordless Authentication Services

As with any major infrastructure shift, changing authentication services can take time. Companies are going to need to transition the entirety of their authentication service over to a passwordless dynamic at once, which may require some level of business disruption. An MSP can help an organization plan ahead for this, determining the best ways in which to switch over to passwordless authentication and the ways to manage the transition with the least possible disruption.

In addition to changing the organization’s own authentication infrastructure, all integrated solutions will need to be updated for the new passwordless dynamic. And processes, such as onboarding processes, will need to be changed once the system has been changed.

What does it take to achieve true passwordlessness? Services like Axiad Airlock can help. Axiad Airlock is a multi-factor authentication service that ensures that users do what they need to do to verify their identities. Axiad Airlock can cut down on training, improve security, and overall streamline your changes to your infrastructure.

Many organizations make mistakes in their passwordless deployment. Here are a few to be cautious of:

  • Going passwordless with some utilities and not others.
  • Not properly integrating all the solutions throughout their infrastructure.
  • Still relying upon passwords for the first wave of authentication and only using passwordless authentication afterward.

Each of these things creates more complexity within a network — and, related to this, more vulnerabilities. It’s critical that companies be able to change over entirely to a passwordless authentication service and that they are able to integrate the entirety of their system. The more unified a system is, the more secure it is.

If you’re interested in learning more about how passwordless authentication works — or you want advice on implementing passwordless authentication in your network — Axiad can help. Contact Axiad today to find out more about your path to passwordless.

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