Passwordless authentication is a method that does not require the user to enter a password. Instead, it uses other factors to authenticate the user’s identity. Passwordless authentication solutions are gaining popularity as passwords become increasingly vulnerable to attacks, and users find it harder to remember multiple passwords. This article will delve into the technical side of passwordless authentication and explain how it works.
The Technical Side of Passwordless Authentication
There are several methods of passwordless authentication, each using different technologies to authenticate the user’s identity. Here are some of the most popular methods:
Biometric authentication refers to using biological characteristics to authenticate the user’s identity. Examples of biometric authentication include fingerprint, facial, and iris recognition. These authentication methods are based on the unique characteristics of the user’s body and are difficult to fake.
Fingerprint recognition works by capturing an image of the user’s fingerprint and comparing it to a stored template. Facial recognition uses a similar process, but instead of a fingerprint, it captures an image of the user’s face. Iris recognition uses the unique pattern of the user’s iris to authenticate their identity.
One of the advantages of biometric authentication is that it is quick and easy to use. However, it does have some limitations. For example, if the user’s biometric data is compromised, it cannot be changed, unlike a password, which can be reset.
One-time passwords (OTP) are another method of passwordless authentication. An OTP is a temporary code sent to the user’s device and used to authenticate their identity. OTPs can be sent via email, text, or mobile app.
OTP authentication assumes that the user has access to their device, and it is difficult for an attacker to intercept the OTP. One of the advantages of OTP authentication is that it can be used as a second authentication factor, making it harder for an attacker to gain access to the user’s account.
Public Key Cryptography
Public key cryptography (PKC) refers to an encryption technique that leverages a key pair for encrypting and decrypting data. The user holds a private key for encrypting data and a public key for decrypting data. While the public key can be distributed to anyone, the private key must be kept confidential.
PKC can be used for passwordless authentication by using the public key to authenticate the user’s identity. When the user attempts to authenticate, the server challenges the user’s device. The device then uses the private key to sign the challenge and returns it to the server. The server then uses the public key to verify the signature and authenticate the user’s identity.
Web Authentication (WebAuthn) is a new authentication standard most modern web browsers support. WebAuthn allows users to authenticate their identity using a security key, such as a USB or mobile device.
WebAuthn uses public key cryptography to authenticate the user’s identity. When the user attempts to authenticate, the server challenges the user’s device. The device then uses the security key to sign the challenge and returns it to the server. The server then uses the public key to verify the signature and authenticate the user’s identity.
In conclusion, passwordless authentication solutions are becoming increasingly popular as passwords become more vulnerable to attacks. Several passwordless authentication methods include biometric authentication, one-time passwords, public key cryptography, and Web Authentication. Each method has advantages and limitations, and organisations should choose the method that best suits their needs.