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Why Passwordless Authentication is Moving into the Mainstream

According to recently published research from the FIDO Alliance, passwordless authentication is moving into the mainstream. The study revealed that around 35 percent of us now use biometrics, like face scanning and fingerprint technology, to log in, making this the second most popular form of online authentication behind passwords.  

So, what does this mean for the future of internet security? Will passwordless authentication methods eventually usurp passwords, and is there a good reason why they should? We explore these questions and more in the article below.

What is passwordless authentication?

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Before we go any further, you should understand what passwordless authentication is. The clue is in the name: it’s an identity verification method that doesn’t require a password. Biometrics are the most widely used alternative, but other examples include physical security keys, specialized apps, and email magic links. If you’re wondering why passwordless alternatives are important, it’s primarily down to the shortcomings of passwords. These are not as secure as most of us assume, and they don’t create the best user experience either. Passwordless authentication smooths over these issues and offers some extra upsides to boot.

What are the benefits of passwordless authentication?

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37 percent of people don’t take any steps to improve their online security, and 19 percent erroneously believe that strengthening their password is the ultimate safeguard. In fact, passwords are not that secure, which is the main reason passwordless authentication is becoming popular. Benefits include:    

  • An improved customer experience. Compared to passwords, which you have to remember, passwordless authentication is typically quicker and easier. Scanning your fingerprint or using facial recognition technology, for example, is faster and more convenient than trying – and failing – to recall a complex password.
  • Improved security. Unlike passwords, it’s almost impossible for cybercriminals to trick passwordless biometrics. While they might be able to guess your password or hack into the database where it’s stored, they can’t replicate your fingerprint or make a copy of your face. This means passwordless authentication methods are much more secure.

Could passwordless authentication supersede passwords?

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The honest answer is that we don’t have a crystal ball. It’s impossible to say for sure what will happen, but it certainly looks like it’s going that way. Already, 32 percent of us recognize that biometrics are the securest way to verify our identities online. They’re also the preferred method of logging in for 28 percent of people. As our lives are increasingly led online, this trend is only likely to expand. Security will naturally become more of a concern to a larger number, and when it does, passwordless authentication seems like the obvious solution. Already, many major businesses are incorporating it into their login procedures. For example, financial institutions, Apple Pay, and PayPal now allow mobile users to access their apps using the facial recognition technology built into their smartphones. This is only one prominent example of passwordless authentication at work.

As its benefits become more widely known and better understood, it seems almost inevitable that uptake will increase so that passwordless authentication eventually edges out more archaic identity verification methods.   

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