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The benefits of passwordless authentication with security keys.

Jun 19, 2024

Earlier this month our Head of Network and Security, Ashley Le Hegarat, and Head of Professional Services, Fynn Hodder, attended InfoSecurity Europe, the leading cyber security event. 

They skilled up on all things AI in information security and how you can ensure you have the correct controls in place to protect your organisation. Following the event, Ash has put together his key takeaways around the future of passwords, focusing on the benefits of passwordless authentication with security keys. Here is what he learnt.

The problem with passwords 

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, one truth remains constant: passwords are a weak link. Despite numerous advances in security technologies, traditional passwords continue to be a primary target for cybercriminals. 

Passwords have been the cornerstone of digital security for decades, but their effectiveness is increasingly questioned. Here are some key issues:

Weak and reused passwords: Users often choose simple, easy-to-remember passwords, or reuse passwords across multiple sites, making them vulnerable to breaches.

Phishing attacks: Cybercriminals frequently employ phishing tactics to trick users into revealing their passwords.

Credential stuffing: Attackers use lists of compromised passwords to gain unauthorised access to accounts.

Given these vulnerabilities, it’s clear that the traditional password system is insufficient for today’s security needs.

As businesses and individuals seek more secure and user-friendly authentication methods, passwordless authentication with security keys emerges as a robust solution.  

About passwordless authentication

Passwordless authentication eliminates the need for passwords altogether. Instead, it uses methods like biometrics (fingerprint or facial recognition), SMS/email verification, or security keys. We’ve chosen to focus on security keys and their role in enhancing security.

Security keys are physical devices that users possess, which generate cryptographic codes to authenticate their identity. Here are the primary benefits:

Enhanced Security 

Phishing Resistance: Security keys are immune to phishing attacks. They don’t reveal any information that could be reused in another session.

Elimination of Weak Passwords: With no passwords to remember or reuse, the risk of weak or compromised passwords is entirely removed.

Protection Against Credential Stuffing: Since there are no passwords to steal, credential stuffing attacks become ineffective.

User Convenience

Ease of Use: Users don’t need to remember complex passwords. A single touch or insertion of the key completes the authentication process.

Speed: Authentication with security keys is faster than typing passwords or going through MFA steps.

Streamlined Management: 

Reduced IT Burden: IT departments no longer need to manage password resets, reducing administrative overhead.

Consistent User Experience: Users can enjoy a uniform login experience across multiple devices and platforms.

Issues with multi-factor authentication

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) enhances security by requiring multiple verification methods (e.g., password + SMS code). However, MFA is not foolproof:

  • MFA Fatigue: Users often find MFA cumbersome and time-consuming.
  • SIM Swapping: Attackers can hijack phone numbers to intercept SMS codes.
  • Phishing: Sophisticated phishing attacks can trick users into providing MFA codes.

The advantage of going passwordless

Passwordless authentication with security keys sidesteps the pitfalls of MFA:

No More MFA Fatigue: Users authenticate quickly and effortlessly with a security key.

Elimination of SIM Swapping Risks: Security keys do not rely on mobile networks, rendering SIM swapping attacks useless.

Phishing-Resistant: As mentioned earlier, security keys inherently resist phishing attacks, providing a more secure authentication method.

As cyber threats continue to evolve, so must our approaches to security. Following Infosecurity Europe, we have seen the power of moving to passwordless authentication with security keys to provide enhanced security, improved user experience, and reduced risk of attacks associated with traditional MFA. 

By embracing this technology, businesses and individuals can better safeguard their digital identities and enjoy a more seamless, secure online experience.


Ashley Le Hegarat

Head of Network and Security

Go passwordless to protect your organisation

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