September 24, 2023

Anonybit Team

What is Passwordless SSO? How Does It Work?

Blog person using authenticator - Passwordless SSO

Looking to boost your online security with minimal effort? Passwordless SSO provides a straightforward path. By eliminating the need for multiple passwords, this one-stop solution of passwordless security makes your life easier and enhances your online security. You won’t have to remember various passwords for different sites, and you’ll also reduce the risk of cyberattacks. 

What Is Passwordless Authentication?

person showing Passwordless SSO

Authentication traditionally uses one of three factors: something you know, something you have or something you are. Combining multiple factors to prove your identity increases protection for your accounts.

Something You Know (Knowledge Factors)

This is the most common authentication factor, including passwords, PINs (Personal Identification Numbers), and answers to “secret questions.”

Knowledge factors can be easily compromised if someone manages to guess or steal this information. For instance, weak or commonly used passwords can be cracked using brute-force attacks and personal information is often available for sale on the dark web.

Something You Have (Possession Factors)

This factor pertains to something physical that the user possesses. Examples include smart cards, hardware tokens, security tokens, and smartphones (used for SMS codes or authentication apps like Google Authenticator).

Possession factors are vulnerable to physical theft or loss. If someone steals your smart card or phone, they might gain unauthorized access. Suppose an attacker gains access to the physical device. In that case, they can intercept any one-time passcodes (OTPs), PINs, or magic links generated on authentication apps, or sent via email or SMS.

Something You Are (Inherence Factors)

This factor is based on biometrics, which are an individual’s unique physical or behavioral attributes. Examples include fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition, iris scans and even behavioral biometrics like typing patterns. The main challenge with biometrics is the need for specialized hardware (like fingerprint scanners) and the potential for false positives or negatives. Hardware support for biometrics has grown rapidly in recent years.

“Passwordless” refers to authentication methods that do not rely on knowledge factors (specifically, passwords) but instead utilize possession and inherence factors. A passwordless authentication process has several advantages, including a streamlined user experience, reduced support costs, and enhanced security. 

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What Is Single Sign-On?

woman trying to single sign on - Passwordless SSO

Single Sign-On (SSO) is an authentication process allowing users to access multiple applications or services with a single login credentials. This mechanism simplifies the user experience by eliminating the need to remember and manage different usernames and passwords for each application.

SSO uses a central authentication server that authenticates the user for all the connected applications. When a user logs in to one application, the authentication server creates a token that confirms the user’s identity. Other applications then use this token to grant access without requiring the user to log in again.

Understanding Single Sign-On (SSO) Mechanisms

An SSO mechanism acts as your passport when using approved applications and websites. When an SSO mechanism is in place, protected applications don’t need your identity in their database. Instead, they must use the SSO to verify your identity and access credentials with a centralized identity provider.

Enhancing Security with SSO and Passwordless Authentication

If you have a Google account, you are already familiar with a version of SSO that uses cookies to maintain user verification across different applications. With Google, a single account password gives you access to a series of Google-linked applications (Gmail, Google Drive, etc.). You don’t need to re-enter your password when switching between these applications.

By combining an SSO mechanism with passwordless authentication, enterprises that use various applications can dramatically improve security by eliminating passwords.

Anonybit’s Integrated Identity Management Platform: A Game-Changer

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.

How Does Passwordless SSO Work?

In passwordless security, I can explain how passwordless Single Sign-On (SSO) authentication works. In businesses with SSO enabled, employees first verify their identities using passwordless authentication, such as biometric scans, to the SSO identity provider.

Once logged in, the applications and websites the employee accesses throughout the day interact with the SSO, which validates the employee’s identity and grants them access with a security cookie. This allows the employee to seamlessly switch between applications without needing to re-authenticate, even when switching from cloud-based to on-premises services. This mechanism, including SSO and passwordless authentication, enhances security and productivity for employees in various work environments.

Benefits Of Passwordless SSO

man enjoying enhanced security - Passwordless SSO

1. Enhanced Security

Passwordless SSO eliminates passwords and reduces the risk of phishing, brute-force attacks, and password theft. It leverages more secure authentication methods, such as biometrics or hardware tokens.

2. Improved User Experience

Users can access multiple applications seamlessly without remembering or managing multiple passwords. This convenience reduces login friction and improves productivity.

3. Reduced IT Burden

IT departments spend less time on password-related issues, such as resets and security breaches. This allows them to focus on more strategic tasks.

4. Compliance and Auditability

Passwordless SSO often includes robust logging and monitoring capabilities, which can help organizations meet compliance requirements and conduct security audits more effectively.

5. Scalability

As organizations grow, passwordless SSO solutions can easily scale to accommodate more users and applications without the complexities associated with traditional password management.

6. Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Reducing the number of password-related incidents and helpdesk calls can significantly lower operational costs, making passwordless SSO a cost-effective solution in the long run.

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Passwordless SSO vs. Password-Based SSO

person learning about Passwordless SSO

A passwordless approach enhances security by eliminating employees needing to remember, write, or store passwords. This is vital because 65% of people reuse passwords across multiple accounts. An attack compromising one password could enable attackers to access multiple accounts. As a result, a passwordless approach reduces the security risks associated with password-based authentication. Passwordless SSO also increases the likelihood that employees will adopt strong, unique passwords for different applications. This is because the password is no longer a factor in accessing applications or is rarely used.

Cost-Saving Benefits

Passwordless SSO results in lower support costs. Passwords burden IT departments, which must manage password resets, help employees with forgotten passwords, and deal with the increased security risks that passwords create. A passwordless approach can save time and reduce IT costs in the long term by reducing or eliminating passwords.

Security Advantages

Passwordless SSO delivers value to the enterprise by reducing the risk of security breaches. This is critical because the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. A passwordless approach reduces the risk of password-based breaches, a major source of data breaches. Passwordless SSO is also more secure than password-based SSO because it requires an additional authentication factor. It is based on the principle of “Something you know, something you have.” When combined with biometrics, this principle offers the most robust security. 

Improving User Experience

Passwordless SSO enhances the user experience. This is important because 91% of IT professionals believe that passwordless authentication is more convenient than password-based authentication. Passwordless SSO reduces the time and effort required for employees to access applications. This is essential for enterprises that want to improve employee productivity and reduce frustration.

Improving User Experience

Passwordless SSO can help enterprises comply with regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), that require robust security measures. It enhances security by eliminating passwords, reducing the risk of data breaches, and ensuring that employees are who they say they are. Passwordless SSO can also help enterprises comply with industry-specific regulations that require strong security measures.

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