work efficiently while protecting your organization
Author: Nicholas Connon
Solutions Architect & Learning Lead, FSi Strategies
In our digitally focused world, everyone has a password for every aspect of our lives – be it your email account, bank account, social media, or the latest app you downloaded onto your phone. The need for passwords is everywhere. And with good reason, they are designed to protect our privacy, our data, and our information from others and as a means for us to confirm our identities. However, how often do you reuse the same password, or the same handful of variations on the same password, just to make it easier for you to remember them? And if we’re repeatedly using the same handful of passwords for multiple accounts, are our data and our identities as safe as we think they are?
90% of internet users are concerned about their data being compromised. In the US alone, 67% of people use the same password for multiple accounts, and 24% use basic, easily guessable passwords like ‘123456’, ‘password’, or ‘qwerty’. In addition, 53% of us rely on our memories to keep track of our passwords rather than a secure app or private system, which often makes us more likely to repeat passwords or use easy words and number combinations so that we can remember them.
65% of Americans admit to not trusting password management apps as they fear these apps will get hacked and all their data will be stolen. 51% use the same passwords for their work accounts as they do for their personal ones, which is even more alarming when you learn that over 80% of data breaches are a result of poor password security. Whatever cautions we think we think we’re taking to protect ourselves online, it is clear that in most cases they are not enough to protect against password fraud.
So, with such shocking statistics at hand, how do we fix the problem and ensure the long-term security of your data? Companies like Microsoft have created features like ‘Password Monitor,’ designed to keep a log of your passwords and username combinations and alert you when you repeat a combination or a password too many times, but Microsoft has been looking to the future and passwordless technology to potentially solve the looming issues.
With aspects such as two-factor-authentication beginning to be rolled out in some countries as the first step in this direction, many aspects make passwordless one of the key components of our digital future. Not only do passwordless technologies allow for faster access to accounts and provide a higher level of security, but they can reduce IT support costs. The Microsoft Authenticator App has been pivotal as it allows you to turn your cell phone into a passwordless authentication method.
Using Microsoft email log-in as an example, their Entra Authenticator app uses key-based authentication with a PIN or biometrics, and can be used on any device or website integration. You open the webpage and sign into your email account as you ordinarily would, but this will then trigger an alert and a code that will appear in the app. You will then be prompted to tap the number in the app or enter that number into a pop-up box on your email sign-in screen, which will then allow you to log into your account.
Depending on the configuration, this method text-message-based two-factor authentication. While it may seem complicated initially, especially if a code is used in conjunction with a password. The use of passwords are increasingly being overlooked in favor of these codes, or other passwordless methods of authentication. It is a much simpler and user-friendly solution than the current password-based system.
The two other main methods of passwordless authentication are biometrics and FIDO2 Security Keys. Biometrics or PINs have begun to replace more traditional sign-in methods, even at Microsoft, where Windows Hello for Business enables passwordless sign-in for Windows PCs. Users enter a unique PIN code or use a thumbprint to unlock their computer, without the need for either user or computer to store or remember a password.
FIDO2 Security Keys are cryptographic credentials, through NFC-enabled smartcards of USB keys. They care be doubly protected through fingerprints or a PIN to be used at sign-in. In addition to more security, these passwordless methods of authentication are more user friendly and allow for faster, more seamless log-in.
FIDO2 Security Keys are also particularly useful for security-sensitive organizations, or for those who choose not to use their phones, be they personal or work-issues to have to log into their work accounts. Such measures also mean that passwords or codes cannot be duplicated for work and personal accounts, making each a separate sphere, and each more protected from potential fraud.
of data breaches are caused by weak passwords
In conclusion, it is easy to see why passwordless authentication is both attractive and necessary for us as daily digital consumers who want our data to be security protected. Finding other ways of securely accessing data is more vital than ever before, as is reliance on something more infallible than human memory to protect digital systems. According to Web Tribunal, 80% of data breaches are because passwords are not strong enough or unique enough.
As a solution, passwordless authentication seems like the most natural, especially as people carry their phones around all day which can act as a means of authentication. Ultimately, passwordless authentication is a way of securing information in a way that is not easily guessable or hackable by others and gives peace-of-mind in the face of a digitized world.
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