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The 3 Steps to Passwordless

More than 80% of all enterprise data breaches are made possible by weak or stolen passwords. The majority of employees who have already been scammed through phishing attacks have yet to change their passwords. Research has also shown that the vast majority of users continue to rely on weak passwords that are easily guessed. Passwords are often the gateway to an extensive array of sensitive and confidential corporate data stored within cloud applications. One of the most common ways of gaining illegal access to a network is through using social engineering attacks that scam users into divulging passwords and other user access information. Over time, these attacks have increased in sophistication and complexity, such that even professionals may have a difficult time telling the difference between an actual log-in website and a scam.

Because of all these vulnerabilities, the once reliable security tool known as the “password” has now become a known risk that poses a direct threat to the security of your company’s network. This has led many to the realisation that the password’s days are limited and that the future of security is moving in an entirely different direction.

This is where the concept of “passwordless” comes into play. In a passwordless world, users sign into their accounts with biometrics or a device they possess (or a combination of the two). After this signing-in process, they would have full, seamless access to all the applications and directories needed to get their jobs done effectively and efficiently. Highly sensitive data would then be placed behind yet another wall of security which would also only provide access based on biometrics or some other non-knowledge authentication method.

As you can imagine, a passwordless system of security has many advantages and benefits that can improve the quality of life for your employees and mitigate the security risks associated with more traditional approaches to access control. Although it may sound daunting, you can easily transition to a passwordless system at your organisation in three easy steps.

Password Management vs. Passwordless

You may have heard about password management solutions. Although these tools can be incredibly helpful, there is a fundamental difference between password management and true passwordless. Enterprise password management comes close to passwordless by enforcing the use of random, complex passwords. When combined with Single Sign-on (SSO) these complex passwords can be hidden from users so they can authenticate with the application but not necessarily view the password mitigating the risk of a password-related data breach or phishing attack.

Unfortunately, true passwordless cannot be fully achieved by most organisations currently. Some vital applications do not support the required protocols, such as SAML, OIDC, or FIDO2. This is why the best identity and access management (IAM) solutions provide both passwordless features combined with credentials-based SSO. This provides a passwordless experience for all applications now by removing the burden of managing passwords from users even if the applications aren’t yet ready to support true passwordless protocols. The primary function of any IAM platform is to ensure that only the right people get access to your network and that users only have access to the applications and data they need to complete their jobs. The best way to achieve this goal is to utilise SSO, entrerprise password management and passwordless technologies in a combined solution.

The Future Is Passwordless

Although passwords have been highly useful as a form of digital authentication in the past, the future is passwordless. One of the reasons for their inherent vulnerability is that they are based on the human element. No matter how many advanced security features you may try to implement, you cannot eliminate the fact that human beings can be tricked and scammed into divulging private information. Furthermore, the length and complexity of passwords are always limited by the capacity of your human users to remember them. Because different applications often have their own password requirements, the tendency of most employees is to rely on the simplest passwords that are easily remembered and that can be reused over and over again. However, this creates a plethora of cyber security risks that can create additional vulnerabilities for your network and your data.

Instead of passwords, more organisations are moving to alternative authentication methods such as biometrics. Biometric authentication confirms a user’s identity using unique physical attributes such as your retina, your fingerprint, or your face. An example of biometric authentication is the facial recognition software used to unlock many smartphones today. There is also a trend towards using secure protocols such as SAML or OIDC to authenticate users across several different applications at once instead of requesting separate passwords over and over again. This increases both convenience and security as users can remember a single, highly complex password instead of many simpler ones. This is the basis of Single Sign-On (SSO).

What Is Single Sign-On?

Single-Sign-On (SSO) platforms make it simple to transition to a passwordless system of authentication. Simply put, single-sign-on applications present a single point of access, granting users access to all the different applications they need. This provides a more seamless, passwordless experience for the user. Furthermore, you can even use an SSO solution for platforms that don’t yet support passwordless protocols. An SSO system enables password forwarding and vaulting within the same system with no friction or noticeable differences to end users between the two applications. Furthermore, the truly advanced SSO solutions provide administrators with the option to switch to passwordless for any application as soon as the application releases support for passwordless protocols.

As an enterprise, you might be wondering:

  • Do our applications need be compatible before rolling out SSO or passwordless?
  • Will this necessitate a significant change in user behaviours and therefore training?
  • Do we need to invest in new hardware or software?
  • Do we have to change our existing processes?

These questions are vital for your organisation. Fortunately, the answer is simple. With Single-Sign-On, you can take advantage of the opportunities of passwordless authentication while answering “no” to every question above. In fact, SSO makes the transition so smooth you won’t even have to worry about training your users.

These days, many organisations are moving to remote and hybrid working. This transition has only increased the importance of ensuring that your networks are secure and that your employees have the access they need. With Single-Sign-On, you can accomplish this. Here’s how it works.

Whenever a user uses the SSO software, the service then creates a unique authentication token that is stored and used to give the user access to a variety of applications. Once the user signs out, the token is destroyed. The most common standard for these tokens is the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML). When a program is compatible with the SAML protocol, it means that it can understand tokens written in this programming language and use those tokens instead of passwords.

Transition To Passwordless In 3 Easy Steps

The key to moving to passwordless in three easy steps is to use the right IAM solution. The ideal IAM platform is highly secure, widely compatible and frictionless for users. Most IAM solutions are cloud-based i.e. Identity as a Service (IDaaS), deploy without having to invest in new infrastructure.

Step 1: Use An IAM Solution That Automatically Discovers Applications

IT departments often have a relatively limited view of the real range of web applications being used across an enterprise so using an IAM solution that can automatically detect ‘unknown’ web apps that users are authenticating with, using credentials, performs the audit work heavy-lifting for you. Then if your IAM solution supports SSO for credentials-based apps i.e. using credential vaulting and forwarding, you should be able to activate SSO for these applications with the flick of a switch. This automatic detection and integration of apps is one of the fastest ways to jumpstart your transition to passwordless. Practically, this means that your identity and access management solution is able to discover the different web applications used within your organisation and connect them to the SSO software with one click. Not only can this automation save you time, but it can also identify applications that you may not even know are being used at your organisation mitigating the risks of Shadow-IT. This discovery feature means that your overall enterprise security posture improves by incorporating these previous unmanaged identities within the governance and control of the corporate Identity and Access Management solution whilst streamlining the transition to passwordless.

Step 2: Activate Passwordless User Experience With One Click

If the IAM platform you have chosen features SSO and Enterprise Password Management, you should be able to activate a passwordless experience for every single application discovered during the audit with one click. This essentially provides the user with a passwordless experience for applications from day one by removing the need for them to manage or enter passwords into applications. Once authenticated with the corporate directory they just launch the application they wish to access and the IAM solution will authenticate them with the app as appropriate.

Step 3: Migrate To Passwordless Protocols As and When Applications Enable Support

The best IAM solutions enable you to easily activate passwordless for applications as and when they enable support for protocols e.g. SAML and OIDC. This means that over time, you can use your SSO solution to seamlessly transition users to being completely passwordless, eliminating all the risks associated with passwords.

As you can see, the transition from your enterprise current state of password-based to future state of passwordless is not daunting when you have the right IAM solution at your disposal. This is why it is so vital to find a solid IAM solution with the features you need to move to a complete passwordless authentication system.

Learn more about how your organisation can transition to passwordless authentication.

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