What is FIDO2 Authentication and How Does It Work?

July 29, 2022
FIDO2 Authentication

FIDO2 authentication is a relatively new way to authenticate users online. Instead of using a traditional username and password, you can use a physical device, such as a USB key or your smartphone, to prove who you are. While FIDO2 authentication introduces new technology, the general philosophy is no different from the “dongles” or “keycards” used years ago. The inherent difference with FIDO2 is that its authentication solution is supported by better cryptography.

What is FIDO2 Authentication?

The FIDO2 standard is based on public-key cryptography, which means that there are two keys: a public key that anyone can know and a private key that only you know. When you want to log in to a website or service, you use your private key to sign a challenge from the website or service. The website or service then checks that the signature is valid using your public key and, if it is, lets you in.

How Does FIDO2 Work?

FIDO2 authentication is designed to work with existing infrastructure and does not require special hardware. As we all know, authentication processes are only as good as they are easy to use; if they are difficult to use, employees will find ways around them.

When a user visits a website or service that supports FIDO2 authentication, the user is asked to sign in as usual. Once they enter their username and password, the service generates a challenge; the challenge has to be connected to the compatible device and validated.

What are the Benefits of FIDO2 Authentication?

FIDO2 authentication has several benefits over the traditional username and password systems.

  • Firstly, it’s more secure. A hacker who steals your password will not be able to use it to log in to your account if you’re using FIDO2 authentication, as they would need your physical device as well.

  • Secondly, it’s more convenient. You can use the same device for multiple accounts, and you don’t have to remember multiple passwords.

  • Finally, it’s more private. When you use FIDO2 authentication, your account cannot be locked out or reset without your physical device. This means that only you can access your account, even if someone knows your username and password.

Compared to many other systems, FIDO2 provides excellent security with limited drawbacks—and it’s ultimately very easy to use for the end user.

What are the Most Common Drawbacks to FIDO2 Authentication?

The most common drawbacks of FIDO2 authentication are the same as those of any other authentication system: cost and deployment.

Rolling out a new authentication system can be costly, both in terms of money and time. You need to buy or develop compatible devices and train your employees on how to use them.

FIDO2 authentication is also not perfect. In particular, it relies on the security of the devices used for authentication. If a device is lost or stolen, a hacker could use it to access your account.

Whether FIDO2 authentication is right depends on your security needs. A cloud-based single-sign-on solution authenticated through a smart device will be enough for most users to connect to any platform safely.

Deploy FIDO2 Authentication

Alternatives to FIDO2 Authentication

If you’re looking for an alternative to FIDO2 authentication, other options are available.

One popular alternative is two-factor authentication (2FA). This is where you use a second factor, in addition to your password, to prove your identity. The most common second factor is a one-time code generated by an app on your smartphone.

Another alternative is biometric authentication. This is where you use a physical characteristic, such as your fingerprint to prove your identity. Biometric authentication is often used in combination with a password for added security.

Finally, you could use a hardware token. This is a physical device that generates a one-time code that you use to log in. Hardware tokens are often used by businesses for high-security applications.

How to Deploy FIDO2 Authentication

If you’re considering deploying FIDO2 authentication, there are a few things to remember.

  • You need to choose the right devices. The devices must be compatible with the FIDO2 standard and support your needed features.

  • You need to train your employees on how to use the new system. They need to know how to set up their devices and how to use them to authenticate. Don’t just explain the how; explain the why. The more your employees understand security, the better they will uphold it.

  • You must plan what to do if a device is lost or stolen. You should have a way to disable the device remotely and prevent it from being used to access your accounts. Mobile device management will go hand-in-hand with this form of authenticated solution.

FIDO2 authentication isn’t perfect, and it’s important to understand the risks before you deploy it. Still, it’s a superior system to most legacy authentication solutions.

The Bottom Line on FIDO2 and Passwordless Authentication

FIDO2 authentication is a relatively new standard for authenticating users. It’s more secure, convenient, and private than traditional username and password systems. However, it can be costly to deploy and is not perfect. There will always be a more secure solution out there, but there is a balancing act in terms of both security and efficiency. Many of the more secure solutions may seem prohibitively expensive to deploy.

If you’re looking for an alternative to FIDO2 authentication, other options are available, such as two-factor authentication, biometric authentication, and hardware tokens. There are a lot of things to consider, including whether they fit in with your existing infrastructure.

Any transition to another security solution will be time-consuming unless you have the help of a professional. By engaging with Axiad, you can learn more about which security solutions are best for you. Axiad will audit your current security system and provide a complete roadmap for your security journey. Contact Axiad today to get started.

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