Pros and Cons of Passwordless Authentication

Basics of Passwordless Authentication

Passwordless authentication involves using a bunch of alternative technologies that are generally considered more secure (comparatively) to authenticate user credentials to grant access to privileged data and information.


The most popular option for Passwordless authentication involves verifying user credentials with biometric information of users, such as fingerprint or facial recognition.

Magic links

Magic links are nothing but single-use links that carry a verification token for the user to verify his/ her credentials and access a passwordless login website.

Hardware keys

Hardware keys involve authentication with physical devices that are actually owned and operated only by users permitted to have those devices. The physical devices can be any company asset that is linked to a specific company user, such as USB drives.

One-Time Passwords (OTP)

One-Time Passwords (OTP) that are numeric codes generated by sites users are trying to access have become pretty much ubiquitous in their usage. These are typically safer than previously chosen passwords as they have a short shelf life. If you are looking to implement passwordless authentication at your company, please contact Cybersecurity Fresno.

Passwordless Authentication: Pros

Better User Experience

Password management can be a nightmare for users not particularly proficient with technology, who cannot access a password manager and don’t understand password hygiene best practices. Creating and maintaining strong, unique passwords for countless sites and apps can be a crippling challenge for such users. Passwordless authentication allows users to bypass such difficulties completely. Users do not need to memorize passwords at all. Businesses stand to gain quite as much as users because the share of users who cannot log into their site for subsequent purchases after the first one simply because they have forgotten their user credentials and do not want the hassle of resetting passwords is still quite large. Passwordless authentication enables users to have a seamless, stress-free experience while shopping even if they have indeed forgotten their passwords. As long as they have access to their phones or laptops and their user IDs, they can still log in using a one-time password or PIN (OTP), link, or a single-instance token code. More sophisticated systems, such as an OS or authentication mobile apps, may allow users to log in using their biometric data such as fingerprint, or facial scan.

Passwordless Security enables better cost efficiencies

Password resets are typically more expensive in the long run compared to passwordless authentication solutions. The latter also works to reduce overall security costs in the long run. With no money spent on password storage, management, and resets, passwordless authentication effectively removes the burden of time and resources from the IT department. They know longer need to be on the constant lookout for potential password leaks and support users to reset their passwords. Passwordless authentication also enables better security compliance with password storage laws and regulations and IT Support Sacramento can help you implement it.

Protection Against Brute-Force Attacks

A brute force attack, as the name suggests, refers to a way of cracking passwords through trial and error. In this type of an attack, a malicious actor uses a malicious script embedded in a website’s login field. The script then utilizes a number of random passwords (using a database of pre-guessed user IDs and passwords) until it hits upon matching password and username combinations. While site administrators typically use a limited login attempt option to protect their sites from brute force attacks, hackers can easily find ways to subvert this particular limitation on the number of permissible attempts. Passwordless authentication goes a long way to protect websites against brute force attacks.

Passwordless Authentication Enables Better Security for your Company Network

A single user credential compromise is enough to jeopardize the security of an entire company network. Using passwordless authentication solutions like PKI client certificates with hardware tokens, can provide robust security for your entire network and limit legitimate access only to sets trusted and verified by the system. This is particularly important when it comes to protecting confidential accounts and sensitive information either stored in the cloud or hardware resources such as laptops, PCs, cellphones.

Passwordless Authentication: Cons

Passwordless authentication is ineffective in cases of device theft or SIM swaps

Passwordless authentication cannot help users if hackers somehow managed to get their hands on lost or stolen devices. They can easily intercept all OTPs, PINs, and magic links generated on authentication apps or sent through email, or SMS text messages. This is one scenario where password-based authentication wins out because hackers can’t access without knowledge of the exact user credentials. SIM swapping attacks are also pretty effective against passwordless authentication. This is the type of attack where malicious actors manipulate a mobile service provider (carrier) to transfer your SIM card to them. In order to do this, hackers can use stolen identities, or claim to have lost the SIM card, and ask for a replacement SIM card with the intended victim’s mobile number. Once this is successful, the hackers can easily use their new-found access to your SIM card to intercept all communication including text SMS messages, authentication apps, and more. Managed IT Services Sacramento provides expert consultation for stronger enterprise security strategies for local businesses.

Biometrics can be bypassed

Although difficult, hackers have found ways to bypass biometric security measures used in passwordless security technology. They can use images or videos of the original user, and use machine learning technology to morph the victim’s image and even use sound from recorded audio clips or videos to clone their voice. Similarly, hackers can find ways to bypass fingerprint locks as well.

Users are still wary about passwordless technology

Passwords have been a cornerstone of computer security for years and user familiarity with the technology keeps it going. With the advent of the autofill (auto-login) password functionality and password managers, many users now find it more convenient to use passwords on a regular basis. However, these methods are still quite new compared to traditional password-based technology, and this is especially true in the case of passwordless authentication. Lack of familiarity and the hassle of putting in a new OTP or PIN, or a biometric scan, every time users need to access the information or company asset can quickly make it cumbersome for them to use in the long run.