What Is True Passwordless Authentication?

Bryan Christ

April 4, 2023

The digital landscape has changed and the authentication techniques we've relied on for years have given way to faster and more secure solutions. Still, one thing remains constant — the need for robust security. True passwordless authentication is an innovation we can't ignore. 

While passwords have served us well, passwordless options give hackers fewer openings and opportunities. Many businesses are already behind this trend. Forty-six percent of enterprises still store their passwords in spreadsheets, leaving their sensitive data at significant risk. Passwordless security eliminates the need for passwords, relying on physiology to make business data safe and convenient. 

In This Article

The Power of True Passwordless Authentication

True passwordless authentication eliminates the need for any form of password to gain authorized access to a system. You don't have to remember countless complicated passwords and PINs. Instead, passwordless security relies on what you have — like a smartphone — and what you are — your unique physiological traits. Passwordless authentication incorporates various technologies, including biometrics and behavioral authentication. 

Like all groundbreaking innovations, true passwordless authentication requires a significant shift in mindset — true passwordless security may be safer than traditional passwords. Although 91% of people know reusing passwords is risky, 75% do it anyway. Cybercriminals can guess, steal or hack your password. Once they have it, they can access all your connected accounts. 

Unlike semi-passwordless options like Multifactor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO), true passwordless authentication eliminates passwords. Users create their accounts without passwords and continue to use alternatives to log in. 

How True Passwordless Authentication Works

Instead of passwords, users rely on factors that give them equal or better security. There are three approaches to digital authentication. The first, knowledge-based authentication, covers things a user knows, including passwords, PINs and answers to security questions. True passwordless authentication uses one of the other two methods:

  • Possessions: Possession-based authentication uses something a user has. It could use a physical item like a mobile device or identification card or a digital one like an authentication token. 
  • Traits: Trait-based authentication refers to your physiology — your unique characteristics. You can use these physical traits through fingerprint or retinal scanners, voice recognition and behavioral factors. 

Instead of basing your authentication process on what people know, you found it on what they have or are. 

True Passwordless Authentication Outperforms 2FA, MFA and SSO

Cybersecurity experts have preferred MFA over Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for some time in the 2FA versus MFA debate. While MFA, 2FA and SSO have their place in cybersecurity, true passwordless authentication is safer and more convenient. Understanding how true passwordless authentication fundamentally differs from the other types of authentication is a vital step in adopting this innovative technology. 

While MFA and 2FA use more than just passwords, they aren't true passwordless security. Let's take a look at how MFA and 2FA work:

  • 2FA: This type of authentication requires a password and a second form of authentication. You'll often need a mobile device, as the additional authentication comes in the form of a PIN sent to your phone. 
  • MFA: While still using a password, MFA furthers the authentication process. When you input a password, you must also complete two or more additional stages of authentication. For example, you may need to provide the PIN the system sends to your mobile and a biometric fingerprint. 

SSO Is Not True Passwordless Authentication

An SSO password manager is a system that allows you to use a single set of credentials to log in to multiple applications. This system helps applications and organizations share identities. While SSO isn't true passwordless authentication, many consider it the next logical step to get there. 

SSO gives you a semi-passwordless experience. You don't have to keep track of limitless passwords and can log in password free. Users can log in to their SSO account with traditional credentials, biometrics or tokens and access all their accounts and applications. 

The process does come with risks. Without a robust, zero-knowledge system, cybercriminals could discover your one central password and immediately access everything, including your business networks. True passwordless authentication eliminates these risks. 

True Passwordless Authentication Can Enhance Your Security

The digital landscape is constantly changing and cybercriminals are continually developing innovative ways to access sensitive data. As their methods evolve, so should the measures we take to prevent them. 

Passwordless authentication systems are exceptionally secure and user-friendly. Some of the benefits of true passwordless authentication include the following:

  • Reducing theft: When passwords are your business's primary defense, hackers know where to concentrate their efforts. Human error can leave an organization vulnerable to phishing attempts, and hackers can also employ brute-force attacks. If they find one weakness, they can access your entire network and steal data, funds and identities. 
  • Eliminating password-based attacks: By definition, passwordless authentication negates any password-based attempts to gain access to your systems. 
  • Reducing costs: Handling password-based security challenges can be expensive. Password storage, resets and recovery costs all add up. While passwordless options may be more costly upfront, they can lead to long-term savings. 
  • Improving the user experience: Both customers and employees will appreciate the speed and convenience of passwordless security. For example, biometric authentication removes the hassles of remembering complex passwords or accessing multiple devices. 
  • Fostering positive relationships: Business relationships are based on trust. When customers and stakeholders trust you with their sensitive information, you must maintain a competitive edge so they know you're using the latest innovations to keep their data safe. 

How to Adopt True Passwordless Authentication

How to Adopt True Passwordless Authentication

Adopting passwordless authentication requires a shift in mindset, logistical changes and clear communication throughout your organization. Breaking the process into steps helps your team to adopt the new technology. 

For many businesses, the first logical step is to implement an SSO system. Centralizing your team's authentication protocols and backing them up with mandated MFA for unusual activity or new devices keeps your security standards high during the transition. 

Once your SSO is up and running, you can phase password use out slowly, replacing it with a true passwordless option like Bravura OneAuth powered by HYPR. Bravura OneAuth removes the need for passwords and gives you an authentication experience by turning your smartphone into a FIDO2 token. With this solution, your team can enjoy a secure and effortless sign-in process no different from unlocking a mobile phone.  

The ultimate goal is to eliminate passwords from your authentication process altogether. To achieve this feat, your team must be comfortable with the change, which is one of the many reasons biometrics is a fantastic option. User identities are convenient and impossible to replicate. Your team will appreciate the streamlined authorization. 

Adopt True Passwordless Authentication With Bravura Security

Adopt True Passwordless Authentication With Bravura Security

Passwordless security will change the face of cybersecurity, eliminating phishing and brute-force attacks from the hacker's arsenal. In a competitive landscape, your business must stay ahead of the curve and be able to assure your stakeholders that you're aligned with the latest and more secure authentication innovations. 

With our all-in-one dynamic resource entitlement and access management solutions, Bravura Security can help you maintain your competitive position and navigate daily authentication challenges. Our all-in-one dynamic resource entitlement access management systems are backed by decades of experience and award-winning innovations. 

With Bravura OneAuth, you can go passwordless and meet all your authentication and security needs with the power of one solution. Schedule a demo today and see how Bravura Security's innovations can help you.