Microsoft Passwordless Technologies

Did you know an average individual has 100 passwords to memorize, and they waste 12.6 minutes each week updating them? How about the fact that credential flaws cause at least 84 percent of all data theft?

Although passwords are the most common way of accessing many accounts, they are not safe, compared to fingerprint verification or a device acting as a physical key. If someone gets their hands on or predicts your password, they could impersonate you, especially if you do not have two-factor verification.

Password updates and client service time ultimately cost your business more money than you realize. Because of this, Microsoft recently eliminated passwords in a bid to ensure improved security across its accounts.

What does passwordless authentication mean?

This involves validating digital credentials without using passwords or answering any security questions. Rather than passwords, this method uses an “ownership element” that uniquely defines the individual, for instance, a one-time code generator, connected mobile device, or a physical identifier. An “innate element,” such as unique biometric identification, for instance, face, fingerprint, retina among others, can offer identity verification.

Unlike possession or intrinsic elements, validation based on what the user knows is easy to steal and share, and requires ongoing administration and management from both users and IT personnel.

Why is Microsoft getting rid of passwords?

Having weak passwords is the most popular cause of online attacks targeted at both business and personal accounts. Each second, there are 579 password attacks all around the globe. Microsoft expects multifactor authentication, a supplementary identity verification step, to prevent up to 99.9 percent of such attacks. However, “just 18 percent of our users proactively adopt that capability.” Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of compliance, security, and identity adds.

Here are two major reasons that make passwords unsafe.

1.      Hacker essence

Sadly, while your passwords are simpler to recall, the hacker can also predict them easily. An attacker can start hacking into anyone’s accounts by looking at their social media pages. If they steal your email and password pair, they typically sell it on the black market to people who can then impersonate you.

2.      Human essence

It is common to establish individual credentials, except for auto-generated passwords, which are difficult to recall. However, because of password fragility, the surrounding criteria have become increasingly difficult in the past few years, including many characters, numerals, case sensitivity, and the abolition of prior passwords. Even if you do continuous updates, creating passwords that are both safe and easy to remember can be difficult. Passwords are inconvenient to establish, recall, and administer throughout all of your platforms.

Microsoft’s password-free choices

Passwordless verification is a step forward from multifactor authentication in terms of safety. At the October 13 virtual presentation, Alex Simons, Microsoft’s executive vice president of identification and network access program management, mentioned four passwordless alternatives:

  • Temporary Access Pass, which is a one-time-key that “allows employees to bootstrap into their initial passwords.” Its system is inbuilt on Azure Active Directory.
  • IT experts can “verify who they are on any device” with Fast Identity Online 2 (FIDO2) physical security keys (from suppliers like HID and Yubico).
  • The Microsoft Authenticator app, which is available for use on smartphones as well as Mac and Linux computers.
  • Windows Hello, which is a biometrics authentication system for PCs that run on Windows.

According to Alex Simons, Microsoft’s passwordless technologies are the result of collaboration with the FIDO Alliance, another industry consortium. However, select appropriate standards have been validated by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C).

“We put a lot of effort into the FIDO2 board to ensure we have outstanding open standards in this domain, and they are finally complete and approved by the W3C. The WebAuthn and Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) standards are the most important ones, and we want to ensure that you can use them on any device and with any service. This is not just for Microsoft’s sake, either,” he added.

How will Microsoft’s passwordless technology benefit you?

The elimination of conventional identity protection has a significant impact on consumer convenience. You will no longer deal with complicated passwords or sign in every time you want to log into your account. This increases productivity levels and saves you time. Such are the factors that motivated Microsoft’s decision-making process for this new technology.

Another significant advantage of using passwordless technology is security. It is considerably harder for malicious attackers who depend on brute-force password cracking to breach passwordless systems. The additional stages of authentication further make it difficult to get unauthorized access. If malicious hackers acquire access to your data, they are unable to exploit it for nefarious purposes without additional authorization, for instance, fingerprint scanning.

Further, the technology decreases the possibility of data leakage or identity theft in the event that your passwords are stolen. Whenever user passwords are kept on company systems, it is possible that unapproved individuals can gain access to personal data. This is not the case with biometric authentication, since it is only retained on the machine itself.

How can you switch to passwordless technology?

You can use a code from your Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello biometric authentication mechanism (typically facial or fingerprint identification), a physical security credential, or a confirmation code is given through text or email to substitute your Microsoft passcode.

Whereas these solutions are not infallible, they do necessitate the possession of a physical item (your phone or keys) or login to your other accounts. This is an upgrade over login details that can be accessed from anywhere or leaked on the internet.

Regardless of your chosen method, you should first download and install the Microsoft Authenticator software for your Android or iOS device. Use your Microsoft account email and password to sign in, and the app will authenticate your identity.

Once you have completed the application setup, go to your Microsoft account’s security settings tab in your browser. If Microsoft has enabled this functionality for your profile, you will see a “Passwordless Account” checkbox under “Additional Security”; enable it. Click “Next” on the confirmation window, then validate the query that appears on your mobile through the Microsoft Authenticator app.

The takeaway

Passwords may be the most common way to secure accounts, but they are not the most secure. Hackers take advantage of the numerous ways there are to hack passwords to breach accounts and steal confidential information. This is why Microsoft is introducing passwordless technology, which is highly difficult for cybercriminals to breach. You might need help implementing such technology in your organization.

As a Microsoft Partner, Virtual IT has vast experience incorporating the company’s technology into a number of corporate scenarios. We ensure that you have the technology your business needs to efficiently serve your clients. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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