Microsoft’s passwordless plans let users switch to app-based login
This isn't just logging into PCs, it's logging into online services as well, Prof Woodward.
According to BBC, the technology giant made passwordless accounts available for business users of its products in March. And that system is now being made available to all Microsoft or Windows users. It said, “nearly 100% of our employees” were already using the new, more secure system for their corporate accounts.
If passwordless login is enabled, users re-logging into a Microsoft account will be asked to give their fingerprint, or other secure unlock, on their mobile phone. And this is far more secure than using passwords, which can be guessed or stolen, according to Microsoft.
Windows users will still be able to use quick-login features such as a Pin code, though. Some rare exceptions will still need passwords, such as Office 2010, Xbox 360 consoles, and Windows 8.1 or earlier machines.
If access to the authenticator app is lost backup options can be used, including, Windows Hello facial recognition, which requires a compatible laptop or special camera, physical security key, which must be used on the device logging in, and Short Message Service (SMS) or email codes
Microsoft says security-conscious users who have two-factor authentication set up will need to have access to two different recovery methods.
Prof Alan Woodward, part of a research team investigating passwordless authentication, at the University of Surrey, called it “quite a bold step from Microsoft”.
This isn’t just logging into PCs, it’s logging into online services as well, Prof Woodward said.
The new passwordless feature greets users with a box saying: “A passwordless account reduces the risk of phishing and password attacks.”
And once the feature is set up, a confirmation tells users: “You have increased the security of your account and improved your sign-in experience by removing your password”.
Microsoft laid out its reasons for the new system in a series of blog posts.
Security vice-president Vasu Jakkal wrote: “Passwords are incredibly inconvenient to create, remember, and manage across all the accounts in our lives. We are expected to create complex and unique passwords, remember them, and change them frequently – but nobody likes doing that.”