Password fatigue is defined as stress, anxiety, and worry associated with keeping track of all one’s accounts’ passwords. Users juggle over 150 passwords on average, a marked increase from 70 to 80 in 2019. 

Like any form of constant tiredness, password fatigue can lead to mistakes. While some can be annoying, like calling IT to reset one’s login, others can be more catastrophic, like opening up the company’s entire network and databases to cyberattacks. Today’s article covers passwords as user authentication, their disadvantages, and alternatives like multi-factor authentication. We discuss how to use those features on industrial and enterprise computers to ensure logging in is as safe and secure as possible. 

What Is User Authentication?

User authentication is the process of ensuring that the user requesting access to a particular system is really who they claim to be. While the “user” in authentication processes is usually a person, it can also be a program, as in the cases of third-party integration requests. 

The process, in simplest terms:

  • The user provides identification information through username and password, RFID badges, and smart cards
  • The system checks to see if the user’s provided information is authentic or not.
  • It sends a response, granting access if the information is authentic and denying access if not. (It also sends a message to security if the latter.)

Workstations, networks, websites, mobile devices, web-based services, and hardware applications are just some examples of systems that should have some form of user authentication process.  

Why Is User Authentication Important?

Authentication ensures that only users and authorized processes are granted access to protected IT resources. A secure user authentication system ensures: 

Convenience and efficiency — Today, more and more users need access to applications and services on their devices, corporate networks, and the cloud. The simple password-based authentication systems of yesteryear have become cumbersome for many users and have opened up secured resources to bad actors. 

Secure third-party integration —Thanks to the application programming interface (API) economy and microservices architectures, today’s networks, software systems, and databases are intimately connected. Secure authentication methods are essential to prevent accidental data exposure and protect against cyberattacks. 

Minimize certain cyberattacks — Phishing, baiting, and quid pro quo are social engineering techniques that trick users into providing sensitive information like logins. User authentication methods, especially multi-factor authentication (MFA) and Zero-Trust security aim to prevent access to sensitive sites and data.  

Types of Authentication

User authentication can be divided into password and passwordless authentication, with the former rapidly falling out of favor as users’ digital environment becomes increasingly complex and highly connected.

Password authentication

This traditional login system requires users to enter their username and password into the application to gain access. Today, it faces numerous issues.

  • Weak passwords: Cyber attackers and their tools can easily guess passwords such as 123, temp, “password,” etc.     
  • Password reuse: Users will often use the same names and passwords across multiple applications. 
  • Social engineering vulnerability: Phishing and similar cyber attacks trick users into providing their login information. 
  • Lack of scalability: As a company grows and its networks and applications become more complex, users and IT departments must manage increasing passwords.  
  • Constantly logging in: Web applications use stateless protocols that force users to log in whenever they access the application. 

Passwordless authentication

As the name implies, passwordless authentication checks users’ identities using non-password means such as fingerprints, proximity badges, and hardware tokens.

Token authentication – This user authentication process creates a temporary token or identifier for a user after they have been vetted by the application’s identity management database or service. Now, whenever users need to access other approved applications, they don’t need to reenter their username and password. Instead, the user uses a non-login method like an RFID card. Imprivata’s Single Sign-On solution is an example of token authentication, granting healthcare workers access to medical applications and networks through their RFID fobs once the workers have been authenticated by the system.

Biometric authentication – IT systems verify users’ identities through their unique biological traits, such as their faces, fingerprints, voice, and the iris of their eyes. Certain medical tablets have built-in fingerprint readers while select medical computers with Windows Hello software can perform facial recognition. 

Certificate-based authentication – Similar to token authentication, certificate-based authentication uses the interaction of public keys, private keys, and certificate authorities (CAs) instead of tokens.  

Many IT departments set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) for users, combining two or more authentication security methods and systems. The healthcare sector’s use of SSO and tokens mentioned above is an example of an MFA.

Artificial Intelligence and User Authentication

An exciting new form of passwordless authentication is AI-supported biometrics. These forms of verification create a unique identifier based on the users’ behavior. Their typing speed and where and when they log into machines are just a few of the inputs used for this method. Users don’t have to worry about memorizing login information or carrying a fob or similar physical item. Cybersecurity experts also believe the system is practically unbreakable, as it’s impossible to duplicate a person’s behavior. 

Authenticate Your Users with Cybernet Products and Services

Once the standard login method, usernames and passwords are now increasingly being discarded as threats by cyberattacks have steadily increased. The latest methods ditch password authentication entirely, relying on passwordless methods like tokens and AI-supported biometrics. 

Contact the team at Cybernet Manufacturing if you’re looking to roll out user authentication across your company or organization. We support most passwordless methods, and many, like fingerprint scanners and RFID readers, are already built into our computers and tablets. As an Original Design Manufacturer, we can customize our products further to meet your exact cybersecurity wants and needs. 

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