How Secure is Passwordless Authentication Compared to Other Methods?

June 6, 2024

How Secure is Passwordless Authentication Compared to Other Methods?

For the longest time, passwords with increasing complexity have been the main mechanism of protecting and securing your online accounts and platforms. These are thought to be very secure, and are still preferred for most online use cases.

But advancements in technology mean that you do not necessarily need them anymore. Modern passwordless authentication systems might provide a faster and more efficient mechanism to access and secure your accounts than conventional systems.

Let’s discuss just how these systems work and how secure they really are.

Key Takeaways on Passwordless Authentication

  1. Biometric Authentication Explained: Passwordless authentication involves using biometrics like fingerprints or facial recognition instead of traditional passwords to access accounts.
  2. Uniqueness of Biometrics: Biometric data such as fingerprints and facial scans are unique to individuals, making them extremely difficult to replicate or steal compared to traditional passwords.
  3. Local Storage of Biometric Data: Most biometric data is stored locally on the user’s device, reducing the risk of remote hacking or data breaches through centralised databases.
  4. Built-in Two-Factor Authentication: Biometric systems inherently provide multi-layered security by requiring both the biometric data and the device that stores this data for access.
  5. Resistance to Phishing Attacks: Unlike passwords, biometric data cannot be shared online, making users less vulnerable to phishing attempts and social engineering attacks.
  6. User-Friendly Security: Biometric authentication offers a more seamless and user-friendly experience, eliminating the need for users to create and remember complex passwords.
  7. Limitations of Biometrics: Despite their advantages, biometric systems can face issues due to natural variations like cuts on fingers or changes in facial appearance, which may affect the accuracy of identification.

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Authentication without a Password

So, what is passwordless authentication on an online platform or account?

Authentication and access to an account without a password usually take the form of what is known as biometric authentication. The most simplistic form of this already exists on most modern phones in the form of fingerprint identification. An on-device scanner analyses your thumb or fingerprint to cross-check it against a database of approved fingerprints.

Another common form of this type of access is face password authentication, where as the name implies, your face is the password used to gain access to the account. This process involves using the camera of your phone to scan your face, which the system then confirms matches with a previously saved face that has been allowed access to the account.

The Security of a Passwordless Authentication

Many different benefits make using biometric authentication mechanisms a better idea to use to access most forms of accounts, the most fundamental of which is its security. There are multiple different reasons for this:


Generally speaking, a biometric password, like a fingerprint or a face scan, is completely unique to the individual. This means that they are almost extremely difficult to replicate, as they are biologically tied to the user themselves. A password on the other hand being an external entity can in some cases be simply guessed and, and other times stolen or even shared (intentionally or unintentionally) between individuals.

Local Storage of Identification Data

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the biometric identification data of an individual like their face or fingerprint is stored locally on their device, like their phone for example. There is usually no centralised database that can be accessed remotely by a malicious individual to grab someone’s identification data in any way, and your biometric data is not sent to the internet even when you use these systems.

What this also means is that passwordless access methods for accounts also act as a form of two-factor authentication in and of themselves. This is because not only are you providing your fingerprint or facial authentication, but you are also providing the device that contains the saved fingerprint or face ID itself. This means that you automatically get a multi-layered protection mechanism on your account.

Resistant to Phishing Techniques

Phishing is a form of cyber attack and malicious social engineering that is used to convince a person to provide the perpetrator with the password to their account. They usually attempt to do this by pretending to be a family or friend, or other person of influence in need of access to your data. Since unlike a password, biometric data can’t be shared online, people automatically are more protected from this kind of manipulation.

More User-Friendly

Another benefit that you might not think about when it comes to this form of authentication and access stems from the fact that these tools are much more user-friendly and seamless compared to complex and complicated passwords.

When using passwords, it is usually up to the user themselves to be creative enough to make a password that is both highly secure and complex, and yet memorable enough for them to be able to recall easily whenever needed. This creates the potential for inefficiency and less secure passwords.

Biometric authentication being much more natural and easier to understand means that there is next to no chance for there to be any form of inadequacy when it comes to account security. Every person’s account no matter how technically knowledgeable or attentive they are will be equally secure and protected.

The Limitations of Biometric Authentication

While fingerprint and face authentication are both highly useful, secure, and convenient modern methods for security, there are still some limitations that are worth noting and considering when employing them as a form of security.

One of the things that can cause problems in such a system is natural variation in your person. For example, if you happen to cut your thumb or finger, the system may reject your fingerprint because of the minor variation that occurs. Face IDs, although more resistant to this kind of problem, can still face issues with tired or morning faces for example, and in rare cases with eyewear.

Closing Thoughts

As time goes on and mechanisms of accessing your accounts with biometrics become more and more secure, it is highly likely that they will be adopted for the majority of secure access systems. The many benefits that these systems provide easily outweigh the few potential negatives.