March 08, 2024

Anonybit Team

What Is FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication? How Does It Work?

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Unlock a new era of secure online experiences with cutting-edge FIDO2 passwordless authentication. Ditch the hassle of traditional passwords and embrace robust security with this revolutionary authentication method. This blog post delves into the core components of FIDO2 technology, its numerous benefits, and how it’s paving the way for a future of passwordless security. Let’s explore the limitless possibilities of a password-free digital world.

The Evolution Of FIDO

the evolution of FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

The FIDO Alliance is an open industry association dedicated to decreasing our reliance on passwords. This organization established industry standards for passwordless authentication methods with the goal of making it easier for organizations to deploy them. The FIDO2 authentication standards were developed jointly by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the FIDO Alliance, further advancing this mission.

Development of UAF and U2F

Before FIDO2, the industry saw the emergence of two other FIDO protocols: Universal Authentication Framework (UAF) and Universal Second Factor (U2F) in 2014. UAF allows for multi-factor and passwordless authentication for accessing online services, including methods like fingerprint scanning or entering a PIN. On the other hand, U2F enhances security by adding a second factor to password-based authentication.

Birth of FIDO2

FIDO2 officially debuted in April 2018 as an evolution of UAF and U2F. The primary aim of FIDO2 is to establish standard passwordless authentication across various mobile and desktop applications. To achieve this, FIDO2 relies on two key specifications: the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Authentication (WebAuthn) specification and the FIDO Alliance’s Client-to-Authenticator Protocol (CTAP). By building on the foundation of UAF and U2F, FIDO2 represents a significant milestone in the evolution of secure, passwordless authentication methods.

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What Is FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication?

woman wondering what is FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

FIDO2 is the third standard to emerge from the FIDO Alliance, following the FIDO Universal Second Factor (U2F) and the FIDO Universal Authentication Framework (UAF).

FIDO2 Authentication

The main objective of FIDO2 is to eliminate the use of passwords over the Internet. It was developed to introduce open and license-free standards for secure passwordless authentication over the Internet. The FIDO2 authentication process eliminates the traditional threats that come with using a login username and password, replacing it with the FIDO2 login standard. As such, it protects against common online attacks such as phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Major Tech Companies Embrace Passwordless Authentication

In May of 2022, Apple, Google, and Microsoft announced their support for the new set of standards for passwordless authentication. Popularly referred to as “passkeys” by vendors, this new “multi-device FIDO credential” scheme garnered significant attention due to the fact that credentials could survive a device loss.

The Future of Authentication

A passkey is the same as a FIDO key in the essence that the passkey is generated once the user verifies their identity. These passkeys consist of a public and private key pair with end-to-end encryption that secures credentials when syncing across different devices.

Anonybit’s Role in Enhancing Data Security

At Anonybit, we help companies prevent data breaches and account takeover fraud with our decentralized biometrics system design. With a decentralized biometrics solution, companies can enable passwordless login, wire verification, step-up authentication, and help desk authentication. We are on a mission to protect companies from data breaches, account takeover and synthetic identity fraud.

To achieve this goal, we offer security solutions such as:

  • Secure storage of biometrics and PII data
  • Support for the entire user lifecycle
  • 1:1 biometric authentication and 1:N biometric matching to prevent duplicates, synthetics and blocklisted identities 

Anonybit eliminates the tradeoffs between privacy and security. Prevent data breaches, enable strong authentication for eliminating account takeovers, and enhance the user experience across the enterprise using Anonybit.

Book a free demo today to learn more about our integrated identity management platform.

5 Most Popular FIDO2 Authentication Methods

person trying to log in with FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

1. Biometrics

Using biometric factors like palm scans or facial recognition can authenticate users. This is a secure and convenient alternative to passwords. Users can unlock devices or log into accounts with unique biometric identifiers, enhancing security and user experience.

2. Security Keys

Hardware security keys support FIDO2 authentication by utilizing public-key cryptography for user identity verification. These keys do not share secrets across services and enhance security with high-assurance requirements.

3. Platform Authenticators

Smartphones and other devices can act as FIDO2 authenticators, storing private keys securely. Users can authenticate using biometrics or PINs, making passwordless access possible across various applications and websites.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

FIDO2 enables combining multiple factors such as security keys, biometrics, and PINs for strong multi-factor authentication. This robust approach meets high assurance requirements for sensitive transactions, enhancing security and user trust.

5. Passkeys

FIDO2 credentials consist of a public-private key pair known as passkeys. These can be synchronized across devices, enabling passwordless access even if the primary device is lost. Passkeys enhance security and convenience by reducing reliance on traditional password-based authentication methods.

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How Does FIDO2 Work?

woman trying to access her phone through FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

The FIDO2 protocol incorporates public-key cryptography to establish a secure and convenient authentication system. FIDO2 standard leverages a private and public passkey to authenticate each user’s identity effectively. To engage with FIDO2 authentication, users must register with FIDO2-supported services. 

FIDO2 Implementation in Practice

When users seek to log in using FIDO2 to an application, the FIDO2 server initiates WebAuthn to send a challenge to the FIDO client, prompting it to sign data with the private FIDO2 key. Subsequently, the user employs the pre-configured authentication method to respond to this request. During this process, the domain of the FIDO2 server is scrutinized to ensure it aligns with the one utilized during registration, reinforcing phishing resistance.

The FIDO client retrieves the private FIDO key from the authenticator, which may be a FIDO passkey, a physical security key, or a mobile app. The FIDO client then signs the challenge to validate its authenticity, granting the user access to the platform or service. Notably, major players like Apple, Google, and Microsoft champion FIDO and collaborate with hundreds of companies worldwide to streamline and fortify authentication.

Setting up Passwordless Sign-ins

To establish passwordless sign-ins, users need to complete several setup steps:

  • Fill out the requisite registration form and opt for a FIDO2 authenticator (a FIDO2 device or a trusted platform module).
  • The service generates a FIDO2 authentication key pair.
  • The FIDO2 authenticator transmits the public key to the service, while the private key, containing sensitive information, remains on the user’s device.
  • Once the secure communication path is activated, setup credentials are stored permanently for future logins. Importantly, in this secure web log-in process, no secret information is exchanged with servers, as the critical FIDO2 security key always resides on the user’s device. 

Future Outlook and Considerations

While FIDO passkeys are a crucial aspect of the authentication process, organizations should recognize that FIDO is a continuously evolving standard. Consequently, it is vital to stay informed about forthcoming changes and adaptations for optimal implementation.

What’s The Difference Between FIDO2 vs. U2F?

FIDO2 was created to allow all authentication to become passwordless, while FIDO U2F was designed to serve as a second factor for passwords. With the release of FIDO2, U2F has effectively been merged into FIDO2 and was relabeled as CTAP1. This transition enables existing U2F devices to function as authentication clients on FIDO2-enabled systems. CTAP1 serves as a strong second factor for user login within the FIDO2 framework.

The introduction of FIDO2 included the CTAP2 standard along with WebAuthn. A modern authenticator utilizing CTAP2 is also referred to as a FIDO2 authentication. If a FIDO2 authenticator contains CTAP1, it is also backward compatible with standard U2F authentication. This backward compatibility ensures a seamless transition for users and systems adopting FIDO2 passwordless authentication.

Applications And Use Cases Of FIDO2

an animated description of FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

1. Passkeys for Passwordless Login

FIDO2 passkeys give users secure access to their accounts without having to enter a username-password combination. Organizations can deploy FIDO sign-ins with passkeys so users can sign in with the same PIN or biometric credentials they use to access the device. The use of passkeys allows for a better user experience, enhanced security, and easier scalability.

2. Access Control

FIDO2 passwordless authentication can also enhance access controls to physical locations like offices or residential buildings. A stolen key or passcode alone will not provide unauthorized parties with access to the premises using this method.

3. Secure IoT Device Authentication

Another application of FIDO2 is that it can be utilized for secure authentication between a user’s mobile devices and their IoT devices. This promotes a more secure onboarding process for IoT devices.

4. Contactless Payments

FIDO2 can be leveraged for secure and convenient mobile payments. This can work to prevent unauthorized or fraudulent purchases without adding more friction for authorized buyers to complete their transactions.

Anonybit: Revolutionizing Data Security Solutions

At Anonybit, we help companies prevent data breaches and account takeover fraud with our decentralized biometrics system design. With a decentralized biometrics solution, companies can enable passwordless login, wire verification, step-up authentication, and help desk authentication. We are on a mission to protect companies from data breaches, account takeover and synthetic identity fraud.

To achieve this goal, we offer security solutions such as:

  • Secure storage of biometrics and PII data
  • Support for the entire user lifecycle
  • 1:1 biometric authentication and 1:N biometric matching to prevent duplicates, synthetics and blocklisted identities 

Anonybit eliminates the tradeoffs between privacy and security. Prevent data breaches, enable strong authentication for eliminating account takeovers, and enhance the user experience across the enterprise using Anonybit.

Book a free demo today to learn more about our integrated identity management platform.

Pros of Using FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

woman showing benefits of FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

1. Enhanced Security

FIDO2 ensures that cryptographic login credentials are unique for each website, remain on the user’s device, and are never stored on a server. This approach stops phishing, password theft, credential stuffing, and replay attacks.

2. Convenience

Users can authenticate via simple, built-in methods such as fingerprint readers or facial recognition, or through FIDO security keys tailored to individual preferences. They no longer need to remember complex passwords.

3. Privacy

FIDO Authentication safeguards privacy by ensuring that cryptographic keys are website-specific, preventing cross-site tracking. When biometrics are used, the data does not leave the user’s device.

4. Interoperability

FIDO2 passkeys are supported by a growing number of online services and platforms, making them a versatile authentication solution for both consumers and enterprises.

5. Scalability

Enabling FIDO2 on websites is straightforward, requiring just a simple JavaScript API call. This is supported across leading browsers and platforms, making it accessible on billions of devices globally.

Cons Of Using FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

person being confused with FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

1. Cost

FIDO tokens can be relatively expensive, ranging from $10 to $20 per token. While individually this cost may not be prohibitive, it can add up significantly for large organizations with many employees, potentially becoming quite costly.

2. Extra Step

While FIDO2 authentication enhances security, it can introduce additional steps in the authentication process, potentially impacting efficiency and user experience. The increased authentication stages can lead to longer authentication times, especially if users need to authenticate multiple times in a day, potentially causing inconvenience and delays.

3. Complexity

Implementing FIDO2 authentication may introduce complexity to the authentication process, especially for users who are accustomed to traditional username and password logins. The transition to a new authentication method can require additional training and adjustment, potentially leading to user confusion and resistance to change.

4. Hardware Dependency

FIDO2 authentication relies on hardware tokens or devices for authentication, which can be a limitation for users who prefer software-based authentication methods. The need for physical tokens or devices may pose challenges for users who prefer a more flexible or virtual authentication approach.

5. Adoption Challenges

While FIDO2 authentication offers enhanced security benefits, its adoption may face challenges due to the need for organizations and users to invest in new hardware tokens or devices. The initial investment and transition process to FIDO2 authentication may deter some users and organizations from fully embracing this authentication method.

Considerations For Implementing FIDO2 

sticky notes for considerations - FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication

1. Security Requirements and FIDO2 Certification

Before moving forward with FIDO2 implementation, it is crucial to consider your organization’s security requirements. Determine if FIDO2’s authentication methods align with your organization’s security needs and if it can address any security vulnerabilities you may have already identified. By ensuring that FIDO2 meets these requirements, you can enhance the security of your organization’s systems and data.

2. Enhancing User Experience with FIDO2

Incorporating FIDO2 Passwordless Authentication can significantly improve the user experience on your platform. By eliminating the need for passwords and offering a more convenient authentication process, you can enhance user satisfaction. Assess if your organization faces challenges related to password management or login processes and if implementing FIDO2 could address these issues.

3. Meeting Compliance with FIDO2

When considering FIDO2 certification, organizations should evaluate how it can help them adhere to industry-specific compliance standards. FIDO2 can assist in meeting regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, and PSD2, enhancing user data protection and ensuring compliance with privacy laws. By aligning with these standards, organizations can build trust with their users and avoid potential penalties.

4. Preparing for FIDO2 Implementation

While adopting FIDO2 may require time and effort, preparing your organization for implementation is essential. Evaluate how FIDO2 will integrate with your existing technology infrastructure and applications. Identify any potential implementation challenges and establish backup plans to prevent service interruptions. Educate users on passwordless authentication to facilitate their transition and garner their support for this new security measure. By carefully planning for FIDO2 implementation, organizations can successfully enhance their security measures and user experience.

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Book A Free Demo To Learn More About Our Integrated Identity Management Platform

Anonybit’s decentralized biometric features offer a passwordless authentication solution that helps companies prevent data breaches and account takeover fraud. Our innovative approach to security not only ensures that organizations can authenticate users securely and efficiently but also eliminates the tradeoffs between privacy and security that are typically associated with traditional password-based systems.

Decentralized Biometrics for Enhanced Security

Implementing decentralized biometrics through Anonybit’s solutions allows organizations to ensure that user authentication is tied to unique physical characteristics. This approach significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to systems and sensitive data, offering a higher level of security than traditional password-based systems can provide.

Preventing Data Breaches and Account Takeover

By replacing traditional password-based systems with Anonybit’s passwordless authentication, companies can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and account takeover fraud. Anonybit’s solutions ensure that only authorized users can access systems and sensitive data, greatly minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and malicious activities.

Support for the Entire User Lifecycle

Anonybit’s solutions offer comprehensive support for the entire user lifecycle, ensuring that organizations can manage user authentication seamlessly from account creation to account deletion. This approach significantly improves user experience and reduces the burden on IT teams, allowing organizations to focus on core business activities rather than managing authentication.

Enhanced User Experience with Strong Authentication

By offering passwordless authentication with decentralized biometrics, Anonybit enhances the user experience by simplifying the authentication process. Users can access systems and sensitive data securely without the need to remember complex passwords, significantly improving user satisfaction and overall productivity.

Secure Storage of Biometrics and PII Data

Anonybit’s solutions ensure that biometric data and personally identifiable information (PII) are stored securely, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. This approach provides organizations with peace of mind that sensitive data is protected from malicious actors and unauthorized access.

Scalable Matching for Lookups and Deduplication

Anonybit’s solutions offer 1:1 and 1:N matching for lookups and deduplication, allowing organizations to scale authentication processes efficiently as user bases grow. This approach ensures that users can authenticate securely and efficiently, even as organizations expand their operations and user bases.

Integrated Identity Management Platform

Anonybit’s passwordless authentication solutions are part of an integrated identity management platform that offers a comprehensive approach to security and user authentication. This platform provides organizations with a single solution for managing user authentication across multiple systems and applications, simplifying the overall security posture. 

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