Passwordless Authentication: How It Works and Its Benefits

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Darko Jacimovic
Written by
Darko Jacimovic

Updated · Nov 17, 2023

Darko Jacimovic
SEO Specialist | Joined April 2023 | LinkedIn
Darko Jacimovic

Darko founded, a comprehensive career guidance platform for beginners in various po... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
Edited by
April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

April is a proficient content writer with a knack for research and communication. With a keen eye fo... | See full bio

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People need a password for nearly everything nowadays. Even mobile devices have a screen lock feature to prevent unauthorized access. Pin codes and passcodes have become secondary as technology develops. 

Most devices now use biometric security. It is a form of passwordless authentication, such as facial and fingerprint recognition. Other passwordless authentication methods are emerging as well.

With technological advancement and the development of passwordless authentication, are we finally free from cyberattacks brought on by weak passwords? 

The answer lies in this article. Read more to understand passwordless authentication, how it works, and its benefits. 

🔑Key Takeaways

  • Passwordless authentication allows you to log in without using the traditional password, which consists of letters, letters, numbers, and symbols. 
  • A password login uses biometrics or temporary passcodes to verify the user’s identity.
  • Using passwordless authentication can prevent password-based attacks and provide users with a seamless login process. For companies, a password login is cost-effective and reduces administrative burden.
  • Passwordless authentication prevents data breaches and information leaks. This is why many will use a passwordless approach to improve the security of organizations and their consumers.

What Is Passwordless Authentication?

Passwordless authentication is one of the recent innovations in cybersecurity. It’s an approach where you can sign into service without a password consisting of letters, numbers, and symbols.

How is this good news? Passwords can be leaked or reverse-engineered. However, if there's no password stored, there's no password for hackers to steal.

Usually, there are three classified factors of authentication:

  • Knowledge factor: You store this in your memory and retrieve it when needed, like passwords, passphrases, and security questions. This makes the traditional “password.”

  • Possession factor: You can carry this information with you, like a mobile phone, access card, key fob, or digital, like an email address.

  • Inherence factors are characteristics inherent to you confirming your identity. These often take the form of biometrics: fingerprints, face scans, voice recognition, and more.

In a Nutshell: 

Authentication methods like Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) use any of the three factors. 

Meanwhile, Three-Factor Authentication uses all the factors mentioned.

When it comes to passwordless authentication, it does not use the knowledge factor to verify and authorize a user’s access attempt to log in.

How Does Passwordless Authentication Work?

Cybersecurity has become an essential part of people’s everyday lives. Statistics show that global cyberattacks increased by 38% in 2022, prompting the cybersecurity industry to develop better plans.

Today, passwordless authentication is a widely used cybersecurity measure to bat down cyberattacks. It verifies your identity with a possessive or biometric factor. 

There are many types of password authentication. One good example is a magic link. A magic link allows you to log in to an account by clicking a link emailed to you, creating a smooth login experience.

Aside from magic links, there are many other types of passwordless authentication. You will discover them below.

Types of Passwordless Authentication

You can use different methods to verify yourself without a knowledge-based password. The passwordless authentications listed below use inherence (something you have) and possession factors (something you are): 

Magic links are single-use links that a website or app sends you. You have to click the link to log in without needing a password. 

During sign-up, some websites only require you to enter your email address. Then, the app generates a link with an embedded token and sends it to your email or phone number. A prompt will appear: "Click the link we sent to your email address to sign in.” 

Click the link we sent to your email address to sign in

There is only a fixed period to use the magic link before it expires. If you have not signed up within that period, you need to sign up again for the platform to generate a new magic link. 

Once you open the email, click the link, and you are finally logged in or granted access to the app or service.

2. One-Time Passwords

OTP or One-Time Passwords work the same way as magic links. The difference between them is instead of simply clicking a link, OTP requires you to input a dynamically generated set of numbers sent to you via email or your mobile device via text. 

OTPs and Magic links are an example of semi-passwordless authentication, as the codes sent to you are technically passwords that last a short time.

Additionally,  an OTP is not static, and it changes every time you attempt to log in. This feature gives you more security when logging in or doing online transactions.

❗ Remember:

OTPs are time-sensitive. That’s why you must enter the OTP on the app or page once you have received it.

3. Biometrics


Biometrics is part of the inherence factors, which are metrics intrinsically owned by you. It includes the following:

  • Iris scans
  • Fingerprints 
  • Retina scans
  • Hand geometry
  • Facial recognition
  • Voice recognition
  • Earlobe geometry

This method makes it impossible for someone besides you to guess or replicate, making it much harder for hackers to access your sensitive user data.

💡 Did You Know? 

Passwordless authentication via biometrics is increasingly popular due to its convenience. Among 1000 American consumers surveyed, 70% believe biometrics are easier than PINs or passwords.

Consumers have switched from passwords to biometrics. The same survey showed 86% of consumers said they are interested in using biometrics to make payments or to verify their identities.

4. Authenticator Application

This passwordless authentication method sends a push notification directly to a dedicated authenticator app on your device. Some examples of free authentication apps are:

  • Duo Mobile
  • Twilio Authy
  • Apple Passkeys
  • Google Authenticator
  • Microsoft Authenticator

These apps alert you that an authentication attempt is taking place. You’ll receive an access request notification on your smartphone to verify your identity, which you can approve or decline.

5. Hardware-based Authentication

Hardware-based Authentication

Hardware-based authentication works similarly to a regular key. It is a physical key that looks like a USB thumb drive. 

Image from Amazon

Imagine it as a hotel room key. Upon check-in, the front desk personnel codes the key to your room. When you insert the key into your room’s door, the data on the key opens the locking mechanism and lets you in.

When it comes to a security key, you insert it into your laptop’s USB port to work. Inside it is a small chip with security protocols and codes that enables you to connect with servers, websites, and apps and will verify your identity.

👍 Helpful Article:

Passwords are still not out of phase despite the emergence of passwordless authentication. However, that does not mean you’re doomed. Remember to always use a strong password. Read Techjury’s guide on creating a good password.

Benefits of Passwordless Authentication

Cyberattacks happen when hackers access your login credentials. They do it through the following types of schemes:

  • Phishing
  • Keylogging
  • Credential stuffing
  • Brute force algorithm

Moreover, hackers are constantly developing ways to steal credentials on the Internet—the increased security threats around authentication call for next-level data protection and security.

Here are more reasons people need passwordless authentication:

  • Prevention of password-based attacks. As mentioned, brute force attacks, credential stuffing, and account takeovers are cyberattacks that can happen with a vulnerable password. Ultimately eliminating passwords reduces the risk of password-related security incidents.

  • Seamless login experience. Passwordless authentication reduces frustration over forgotten passwords. In time, better user experience may lead to greater productivity in businesses.

  • Cost-effective. Implementing a passwordless authentication might require some upfront investment, but it pays off in the long run. It provides better scalability and offers low to zero-cost cyberattacks.

  • Supported by regulatory bodies. Passwordless authentication is NIST 800-63 compliant. It’s an effort by the Federal Government to reduce cyberattacks by setting standards for the use of passwords.

  • Reduced administrative burden. Passwordless authentication simplifies IT operations as they will not have to issue, secure, rotate, reset, and manage passwords.

Bottom Line

Passwordless authentication can strengthen security by eliminating risky password management practices. It is generally more user-friendly than password-based options.

That’s where passwordless authentication comes in as a great alternative. That is why everyone uses passwordless log-ins, from mobile devices to banking transactions. Websites and apps use password-free authentication to do away with passwords, preventing data breaches and information leaks.

Without passwords, threat actors have no credentials to target, and you can have a smoother and safer user experience.


Does Google have passwordless authentication?

Yes. In 2022, Google rolled out "passkeys," a passwordless authentication option to Chrome and Android. Passkeys enable users to sign into its services without needing a password.

Does Apple have passwordless?

Apple products like iPhones and the iPad use biometric authentication for facial recognition and fingerprint scanning. Apple also launched a nifty feature called "passkeys," which allows you to authenticate with some apps and services using the two mentioned biometrics.

Which authentication is the least secure?

The Password Authentication Protocol or PAP is an easy-to-implement and simple password-based protocol to authenticate a user on the network. Its nature makes it a less secure authentication. 


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