Security

Microsoft wants to eliminate passwords — and there's an app for that

Many in the technology industry have predicted the coming end of passwords over the years, but Microsoft may have made the boldest proclamation yet.

At its Ignite 2018 conference this week, the software giant declared the end of the password era by way of an expansion of its Microsoft Authenticator application, which will now support passwordless logins for apps connected to Azure AD. The smartphone app is designed to eliminate passwords with a multifactor login that uses the device and a user’s fingerprint scan, facial scan or PIN.

First introduced in 2016, the Microsoft Authenticator application combined two previously released authenticator apps for Microsoft accounts and Azure AD into a single offering. The app allowed users to log in to both Microsoft accounts and Azure AD-connected apps on desktops via their mobile devices. Last year, Microsoft updated the app and added passwordless logins with biometric support for Microsoft accounts; this week’s update to the Microsoft Authenticator app extends the same biometric authentication support for Azure AD apps.

“No company lets enterprises eliminate more passwords than Microsoft,” wrote Rob Lefferts, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security, in a blog post. “Today, we are declaring an end to the era of passwords.”

Lefferts added that using a passwordless, multifactor login can reduce the chance of account compromise by 99.9% and create a simpler experience for users.

During his keynote Monday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella highlighted how The Coca-Cola Company had deployed Microsoft Authenticator in an effort to eliminate passwords and better protect accounts within the organization. Nadella said Coca-Cola’s CIO Barry Simpson wanted Microsoft to “orchestrate a security ecosystem that worked for them, starting with identity.”

“Multifactor authentication or a no-password future has to be done in way so that user adoption is at the center of it,” Nadella said. “And that’s why the Authenticator app and the way we do two-factor authentication in [Office] 365 that is being deployed broadly at Coca-Cola is helping Barry ensure that the users are using the security measures that IT wants them to use in the first place.”

The Authenticator app update is the latest move by Microsoft to eliminate passwords for both enterprise users and consumers. In 2015, the company introduced Windows Hello, a passwordless login for Windows 10 that uses facial recognition technology. The following year, Microsoft launched Windows Hello for Business, which combined the company’s Microsoft Passport offering for enterprises with Windows Hello.


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