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Digital authentication should be one of your top priorities if you utilize online platforms to keep your information and data safe. Whether you’ll be going online for business or personal use, it’s crucial to have a reliable authentication method to protect your resources.

In recent years, more industries have adopted authentication measures to safeguard information further. It’s also being encouraged globally, with Google mandating two-factor authentication processes in 2021, resulting in a 50% decline in compromised accounts

Similarly, multi-factor authentication (MFA) uptake is on the rise worldwide, with the number of companies using MFA tools increasing to 57% in 2021, a 12% improvement from the previous year.

With technological advancements continuously evolving, so does the emergence of different authentication tools. Notable examples of these include passwordless and MFA systems. 

What is Passwordless Authentication?

Passwordless authentication verifies your identity without inputting a password to gain access to resources. When asked: “How does passwordless authentication work?” the process is that you authenticate your identity through more secure alternatives, such as one-time passwords (OTP) or biometric procedures. 

Passwords have been the weak spot in most malicious cyber activities, so much so that 81% of breaches occur from weak or stolen passwords. It’s primarily due to passwords being hard to remember and easy to compromise by experienced cybercriminals. 

Passwordless authentication provides a more secure alternative to encoding your password to be granted access.

There are different types of passwordless authentication methods you can choose from that would best suit your preferences and needs. Some popular passwordless authentication tools include:

1. Biometrics

Biometric applications use your features and physical characteristics to correctly identify or authenticate your identity. In this authentication process, you’ll often need to provide your fingerprints, facial recognition, or retina scans. Since no one shares the same set of biometrics, it’s harder to infiltrate or hack into, making it reliable for everyday users. 

2. SMS-based

Another way of verifying your identity is through SMS messaging. In this method, you’ll get a one-time code upon entering your mobile number or login credentials. When you receive the code, you’ll input it where necessary to get verified and be given access to the account, network, or platform. 

3. Email-based

Email-based authentication, otherwise known as a magic link, is another reliable way of verifying your identity without passwords. Authenticating through email includes the service sending a magic link or one-time code to your designated email. You’re then tasked to either input the code sent to the system or click on the link sent to gain access. 

Multi-Factor Authentication Explained

Like passwordless authentication, MFA is a security tool to protect your information without a password. This verification system prompts you to access the desired resource through several authentication checkpoints. In addition to also having biometric alternatives or magic links, it also requires you to input your login credentials, such as username and password. 

Multi-factor authentication is generally regarded as more secure and capable of safeguarding important information against unwanted entities than other forms of authentication. It requires different authentication factors such as OTPs, biometrics, and security questions. 

While multi-factor authentication implementation shares several methods and processes with other passwordless authentications, you might also be greeted by one of these three main types of authentication to serve you and your sensitive information better:

1. Knowledge

Knowledge-based authentication revolves around information only the real user knows. Usernames, passwords, PINs, and security questions are common examples of this category.

2. Possession

The possession-based authentication factor has something that verifies who you are, such as your mobile phone, email, authenticator tool, and smart card. Not only does this provide you with better security, but it also notifies you if someone is trying to hack into your accounts. 

3. Inherence

While knowledge and possession authentication factors rely on questions and gadgets for verification purposes, inherence uses your biological traits to authenticate your identity. Commonly known as biometrics, inherence factors use your fingerprints, speech pattern, retina scan, and facial recognition to verify you as the correct user. 

The Difference Between Passwordless Authentication and MFA 

Because both share several traits and processes, the debate of passwordless vs. MFA methods continues. Among other things, the most significant difference is that passwords are eliminated in passwordless authentication, but the practice is retained in most MFA methods. 

Besides the difference mentioned above, here are other aspects that set passwords authentication and MFA apart:

1. Process

Whereas passwordless authentication removes the need for passwords as a form of verification, the MFA approach includes added security measures for the standard username and password login to safeguard your information better.

2. Security

MFA has the potential to better protect your information depending on how many verification tools you add and the authentication process you choose. 

The authentication tools in MFA have a broader scope of capabilities compared to passwordless authentication, meaning you can create different combinations of security questions, OTPs, and biometrics to suit your organization’s needs. 

3. User experience

While MFA is largely a more reliable security tool, it also suffers from the potential of having a poor user experience. It’s because it requires a large volume of input and considers different factors to be effective.

On the other hand, passwordless authentication requires one or two significant changes to be functional. Although a less secure method than MFA, it compensates for a better and easier user experience due to its relative simplicity.

4. Cost 

Because implementing passwordless authentication relies on the correct software, devices, and methods, this could lead to a big task with an equally hefty price tag. You can easily keep costs at a minimum with MFA since all you need is a reliable authenticator app to use its functions. 

5. Deployment 

Deployment of either MFA or passwordless authentication varies in complexity and depends more on the nature and needs of your organization. Out of all the differences listed, the scalability of your organization is much more critical in this category than the inherent natures of MFA and passwordless authentication tools. 

Passwordless Authentication vs. MFA: Which is for You?

Both passwordless and multi-factor authentication methods possess unique traits and have some similarities to each other. However, choosing one depends entirely on your organization’s financial capabilities, preferences, and needs. 

For any concerns and inquiries regarding authentication, regardless of if it’s passwordless or multi-factor, find your ideal cybersecurity partner in Q5id! With several years of expertise in the field and a team of experts, Q5id serves quality identity and access management solutions to gear up your organization and upgrade your cybersecurity measures!

Learn more about our technology and contact us today to get started.

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