What Is FIDO2 and How Does It Work? Passwordless Authentication Advantages & Disadvantages

What is FIDO2 Authentication

 

Logging into a website or service using the traditional username and password combination isn’t the best or safest way of going about it anymore. As cybercriminals become more technologically advanced, data protection methods must also move forward. This is where new authentication standards such as FIDO2 can become a useful tool in battling the issue.

But, what are FIDO2 specifications and requirements? Moreover, how do FIDO2 websites even work? We’ll answer these and many other essential questions pertaining to this passwordless authentication standard in this detailed overview. Continue reading to learn everything about the FIDO2 standard.

Contents

What is FIDO2? The New Passwordless Standard

How Does FIDO2 Work?

FIDO2 vs. FIDO U2F - What is the Difference?

FIDO2 Advantages and Disadvantages

FIDO2 Use Cases

Getting started with FIDO2 authentication

What is FIDO2? The New Passwordless Standard

FIDO stands for Fast Identity Online. With an added number two at the end, this acronym is based upon previous work done by the FIDO Alliance, particularly in terms of developing the Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) authentication standard. It is the third standard to emerge from the FIDO Alliance, following the FIDO Universal Second Factor (UAF) and the FIDO Universal Authentication Framework.

The main objective of FIDO2 is to eliminate the use of passwords over the Internet. It was developed to introduce open and license-free standards for secure passwordless authentication over the Internet. The FIDO2 authentication process eliminates the traditional threats that come with using a login username and password, replacing it with the FIDO2 login standard. As such, it protects against common online attacks such as phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks.

How Does FIDO2 Work?

This standard uses public-key cryptography to guarantee a secure and convenient authentication system. The FIDO2 standard uses a private and public passkey to validate each user’s identity to achieve this. To use FIDO2 authentication, you’ll have to sign up for it at FIDO2 supported services. While the world’s biggest platforms like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are championing FIDO, they aren’t the only driving force behind the FIDO Alliance, and are collaborating alongside hundreds of companies all over the world to make simpler, stronger authentication a reality. 

To set up passwordless sign-ins, you have to go through a few setup steps:

  1. You have to fill the appropriate registration form and choose a FIDO2 authenticator (either a FIDO2 device or a trused platofrm module).
  2. The service will generate a FIDO2 authentication key pair.
  3. Your FIDO2 authenticator sends the public key to the service, while the private key containing sensitive information stays on your device.

Once the secure communication path is enabled, the setup credentials are stored permanently, allowing for later logins. The next time you want to log in to one of services supporting FIDO2 standard, you have to follow these steps:

  1. Provide your username and email.
  2. The service will give you a cryptographic challenge.
  3. You use your FIDO2 authenticator to sign the challenge.
  4. The service’s server verifies your response and gives you access to your account.

What’s especially important to remember for this secure web log-in process is that you don’t exchange any secrets with the servers. The crucial piece of information, which is your FIDO2 security key, always remains on your device.

FIDO2 Authentication Use Cases

So, how does FIDO2 affect the overall user experience through real-life examples? Even more important for the average user, in what form can you implement it in your day to day life? Let’s take a closer look at how you can implement FIDO2 passwordless login in different forms:

1. Platform authenticators are embedded with the employees’ smartphones, tablets, or laptops that have built-in cryptographic hardware elements and biometric capabilities. For example, an Android smartphone, a Windows 10 device using Windows Hello or an Apple device with Touch ID or Face ID capabilities can serve as a platform authenticator.

FIDO2 platform authentication


2. Cross-platform authenticators. 
In this case, authentication relies on a dedicated physical USB, NFC, or Bluetooth security key that allows you to log in to services by inserting your key into the USB slot of your device or with the touch of a button on the authenticator.

FIDO2 cross-platform authentication


FIDO2 vs. U2F - What is the Difference?

Now that we understand how FIDO2 authentication works, it’s also useful to do a FIDO2 vs. FIDO U2F comparison to determine the difference. The most significant difference between the two is that the former was created to allow all authentication to become passwordless. On the contrary, FIDO U2F was designed to serve as a second factor for passwords.

FIDO2 and U2F Websites and Services

FIDO2 Advantages and Disadvantages

FIDO2 Advantages

The most significant advantage of FIDO2 authentication is that it creates a much smaller attack window for cybercriminals. To access your sensitive private information, attackers will need a FIDO2 authenticator, which is physically always by your side in the form of your device or your biometics.

If you use several FIDO2 supported sites, you’ll enjoy another advantage in the form of a more streamlined experience, as you won’t have to remember multiple login details and passwords for each of your accounts. The FIDO2 U2F security key will work across the board for all supported platforms, offering maximum security and user comfort.

FIDO2 Disadvantages

Of course, like any other security method in the world, the FIDO2 standard does have certain disadvantages. These drawbacks aren’t deal-breakers but are something you should be aware of if you plan on implementing the FIDO2 passwordless login as a security practice.

Most notably, this standard requires an additional security step compared to traditional password login standards if you use it as a regular component of two-factor authentication. With that in mind, such a system isn’t the most practical one if you log into more FIDO2 enabled websites several times each day. Additionally, since this authentication method still isn’t well spread-out, there are not many FIDO2 supported websites at the moment, though the number of FIDO-enabled platforms and browsers is constantly growing. For example, you can enable passwordless sign-in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and more than 300 other services that suport FIDO2 or FIDO U2F.

FIDO2 Supported browsers

FIDO Platform/ Browser Support from FIDO Alliance

Getting started with FIDO2 authentication

Cyber-attacks have shown us that the human risk factor is a significant aspect of cybersecurity breaches. With FIDO2 implementation and passwordless authentication, the human risk factor is eliminated, allowing for a much safer user experience. Big tech companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple are already supporting FIDO2 security keys. Although this form of secure log-in is still in its relatively early stages, one thing is sure - passwordless authentication is the future.

For the highest levels of security and convenience, Hideez offers passwordless authentication and MFA with its multifunctional hardware security tokens. They are compliant with the FIDO2 standard and can provide a passwordless experience for both individual users and enterprises.

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The complex design of the Hideez Key ensures both convenience and protection thanks to a unique set of features:

  • Password-based Digital Access - This feature of the Hideez Key provides for a great user experience across the board. You can use the key to lock or unlock your Windows 10 PC by proximity, generate new compex passwords and one-time passwords for two-factor authentication. Moreover, you can store up to 1,000 logins and passwords from your existing accounts and ensure their secure autofill. This also includes password-protected local folders, PDF, Word, ZIP files, and any other documents you want to keep safe.
  • Passwordless Access - The device also supports FIDO U2F and FIDO2, the two open authentication standards aimed at reducing the world’s over-reliance on passwords. It means that the Hideez Key can be used for passwordless authentication and 2FA on FIDO-supported browsers and platforms (Google and Microsoft services, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Azure AD, etc.), the number of which is growing steadily. The Hideez Key wirelessly supports FIDO authentication on Windows 10 and Android 8+ devices via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology.  
  • Proximity logon - A built-in proximity lock will protect your computer every time your walk away. Using the Hideez Key, you can automatically lock and unlock your Windows workstation based on the Bluetooth strength between the key and your PC. You can tailor and customize how you want to lock it by adjusting preferable proximity thresholds and choosing the unlocking method.
  • Physical Access - Besides digital access, the Hideez Key also provides convenient physical access. A built-in RFID tag can be pre-programmed to open any RFID door lock at office buildings, data centers, factories, etc., thus replacing a smart card.
  • Strengthened Protection - The Hideez Key provides enhanced protection against both phishing and pharming, as well as all other password-related attacks. Plus, unlike most other password managers, the Hideez Key doesn’t send any credentials into the cloud or to any third parties.

If you are looking for a universal security solution, Hideez Key is a perfect choice with various use cases going far FIDO2 authentication. And as for business owners, our experts can help you take a closer look at modern authentication methods and find a personalized identity and access management solution for your organization.

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