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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

You Can Now Ditch the Password on Your Microsoft Account

Though a totally passwordless future remains to be a methods off, you will quickly be capable to take a giant step in that path by nuking the password on your Microsoft account. The firm introduced at the moment that the password-free options it already affords to company clients will now be obtainable to everybody.

Over the subsequent few weeks, Microsoft will roll out assist for a passwordless life in the Microsoft Authenticator app and the biometric-based Hello login service for Windows. You’ll be capable to set issues up so you employ a biometric like a fingerprint or face scan, a {hardware} authentication token, or a verification code despatched to your cellphone or e mail as a substitute for a password. Like your outdated login, the new system will allow you to—and greater than a billion different Microsoft account holders—entry providers like Office 365 and OneDrive.

“The number of cyberattacks has increased as a result of identity and password theft—as defenders we really have our work cut out for us in this asymmetric game,” says Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security, compliance, identity and management. “Without passwords you get advanced security and it’s so much easier. It’s just a slam dunk.”

Passwordless schemes use biometrics (something you are) or things like hardware security keys (something you have) to confirm you are who you claim to be; in other words, to authenticate you. In contrast, passwords are “something you know,” which becomes a problem when that information is “known” or guessed by others. In passwordless schemes, though, even security codes sent to your phone are really “something you have” instead of “something you know”, because they require you to have access to your smartphone during a specific, brief period of time.

This conceptual shift makes passwordless systems more secure in many ways, but people are so accustomed to passwords after using them for decades that it’s sometimes difficult to convince them to try something else. If you’ve invested time setting up a password manager you may feel like a lot of the aggravation is gone from the whole situation anyway. And passwordless login is so easy that it can feel less secure simply because there’s less hassle involved in looking into your webcam for a face scan or sticking a Yubikey into a USB port.

Even within Microsoft it took years to design and implement an alternative structure that eliminated the password entirely instead of simply adding more layers of defense on top of them.

“I bear in mind it was 2017 and we began speaking about what if as a substitute of enhancing multifactor authentication we alter course to simply get rid of passwords,” says Microsoft chief information security officer Bret Arsenault. “I was sitting there thinking, is this just wordsmithing that someone from marketing came up with? And then I thought, well, if we really did want to eliminate passwords, what would we do differently? It was literally like a lightbulb switched on.”

Microsoft says that it has more than 200 million passwordless users from its enterprise rollout. And the company isn’t the only tech giant offering alternatives to logging in with a password. It has particular influence, though, given Windows and Office 365’s ubiquity among both corporate customers and individuals.

To kill your Microsoft password forever, download the Microsoft Authenticator app and link it to your Microsoft account. Then go to account.microsoft.com, choose Sign In, and then Advanced Security Options. Under Additional Security look for Passwordless Account and tap Turn on. Follow the prompts and then approve the change from the Authenticator app.

That’s it. If you want to reverse the process there’s an option to add your password back. But who would miss it?

“You think that everybody hates passwords, but there is one faction of people who love passwords,” Arsenault says. “They’re called criminals.”

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#Note-Author Name – Lily Hay Newman

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