How User Authentication Will Unfold In 2021 – CEO’s Take


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Contrary to what many people may think, the future of user authentication will not be complicated passwords. Nor will it be more advanced multi-factor authentication (MFA). Instead, we’re going to see advances behind the scenes in user authentication. This means that developments will be imperceptible to the user with an emphasis on continuous monitoring and seamless processes.

Currently, user authentication systems are designed to verify whether a user has the necessary privileges to access data or a system. In the future, however, they will focus on identifying the user and ensuring they are who they say they are to prevent identity fraud and cybercrime.

User authentication
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Let’s look at how user authentication will unfold in 2021 and what the future holds for user authentication beyond passwords and MFA.

Why Can’t We Get Rid Of Passwords Already?

Passwords are the main way we keep our digital accounts secure and have been for quite some time now. However, they have become increasingly less secure over the years.

So, now that we have more advanced and secure means of authentication, why can’t we stop using passwords?

The main reason is that password authentication is easy. It’s a simple way to register and create new accounts on various systems – whether online or on a device.

The downfall to passwords is that they are often not appropriately secured and stored by the service providers. Also, many people use the same combination of passwords or endless series of guessable phrases. This makes it very easy for cybercriminals to hack into user accounts. If one of your accounts is compromised, they will likely be able to get into your other accounts easily.

To make things worse, billions of credentials are leaked every year. Because of this, using passwords by themselves presents a problem on a colossal scale. So, although passwords are one of the simplest ways to verify a user, they pose a considerable threat to businesses. It could have severe consequences if there is a breach that results in a leak of user credentials.

So many systems use passwords already. As such, it’s difficult to envision a future where they are completely eradicated or not one of the main methods of authentication.

But, as they’re losing their effectiveness for data protection, multi-factor authentication is growing in popularity. While this still involves the use of a password, users also need to provide some other form of identification before they can gain access.

Can We Make Authentication Less Complicated?

Now, it’s safe to predict that more services will implement better, more secure authentication practices, like MFA. However, it is crucial to make these solutions as simple and frictionless as possible for users.

There are already some services that help provide this seamless experience for users. These include Authy, Google Authenticator, and Microsoft Authenticator.

These types of applications send you a pin, code/token, or one-time-password (OTP) like a 6-digit number. You will then input after providing your username and password. This creates an extra layer of security before you can access your or profiles or accounts.

These codes are often time-dependent, meaning they expire quickly so you have to input them immediately.

As these types of solutions continue to evolve and advance, they will certainly make authentication easier and more seamless for users. As a result, multi-factor or two-factor authentication will lead to fewer compromised accounts when a breach to a system does occur.

Key Trends For Authentication In 2021

So what’s happening right now in terms of user authentication? Here are 3 key trends in 2021.

Passwordless Access

Although most people use or own multiple different devices, they will generally use the same device for specific tasks. As such, businesses can streamline and structure login processes accordingly. For example, when using a mobile phone, users could be able to log in to a platform or system by using their camera to scan a code. This would bypass having to type in a password.

This makes the login process more frictionless, thereby providing a better user experience. In addition, this type of login solution could minimize the risk of phishing scams.

As passwordless access gains popularity, cybercriminals who deploy phishing scams will have no use for obtaining account credentials. Thus, it will reduce the number of phishing scams taking place.

Ultimately, using passwordless access solutions means gaining more security and control over your account.

Frictionless Biometrics

Biometrics analyzes a user’s physical features to confirm their identity. For example, a common method of biometric authentication is fingerprint scanners. In fact, many smartphones use this or facial recognition to ensure secure, yet seamless access for users. In fact, studies predict that 90% of smartphones will have facial recognition biometric hardware installed by 2024.

Practically everyone owns a smartphone. And, with seamless biometric systems, businesses can leverage this smartphone technology to provide frictionless, convenient access for users.

One of the main advantages here is that people are already comfortable using this type of technology. They use it every day to unlock their phones and perform other tasks. As such, integrating biometrics should be simple and users will adopt the approach without any issues.

In short, frictionless biometrics provides more security for your users, while being easy to use. It is also much faster than having to fill out a passcode or input a one-time pin. As such, it provides an enhanced user experience. Biometric authentication appears to be the way of the future. It’s hassle-free and uses what is already on the user’s smartphone.

Geolocation Identification

Like biometrics, geolocation identification uses the user’s smartphone to verify their location. For example, if a user shops at a particular store and buys something, geolocation identification will be able to verify that they are in fact at that store. Thus, it authenticates the transaction.

This eliminates the need for the user to manually authorize the transaction. Thus, geolocation identification provides convenient and transparent authentication.

Through geolocation identification, service providers can know what to approve based on where you are in the world. If your location seems to be off, they may refuse access until they know it is you.

For example, a service that operates locally in one country may not grant you access if you try to log in when you’re out of that country.

What Does The Future Hold For User Authentication

For now, at least, it seems like passwords are here to stay. But, they will most certainly be combined with another authentication method to ensure better security. This could be biometrics, MFA or 2FA, or passwordless solutions.

Multi-factor authentication & biometrics

When it comes to the future of multi-factor authentication, it will continue to expand and evolve over the coming year. MFA has proven to be more secure than utilizing a password on its own. Smartphones also make MFA a seamless process as users can get additional pin codes sent straight to their phones when they need to log in to something.

At the moment, MFA still relies on the use of a password. However, some predict that it will break away from passwords as biometric authentication takes over. Because fingerprint scanners and facial recognition are not completely foolproof, MFA can help add that extra layer of security when using one of these authentication methods.

Passwordless future

It seems like we are moving more towards a future where we don’t need to remember passwords. Biometric authentication will continue to advance and “silent authentication” will become more and more common. This means that biometric authenticators will be able to analyze and verify users without them having to manually present their biometric identifiers.

From voice and facial recognition to scanning iris patterns and analyzing gait, biometric technology will be able to provide higher-accuracy authentication. It will automatically capture these biometric factors and provide access to the authenticated user without them having to do anything. This is the future of authentication.

With this type of technology in place, users will no longer need to remember multiple complex passwords and worry about the security of their accounts. It will provide frictionless access to ensure convenience while providing optimal security.

But, for now, MFA and 2FA are sufficient authentication solutions to provide added security to passwords.

Single sign-on

Besides the advances with biometrics, the authentication process is also starting to become a smoother, less fragmented process. Single sign-on schemes make it easier for users to use one set of credentials for multiple accounts. For example, many websites allow you to use your Google or Facebook account to register and create your account.

So, in the future, we may see a “universal sign-in” that will enable you to sign in to all your accounts using biometrics. This could replace passwords entirely – creating a seamless login process for users.


The future of authentication is about finding convenient ways to verify users with the least amount of friction possible. This not only provides users with a better login experience but reduces the risk of security breaches as well.

All the authentication methods mentioned above can confirm that user transactions are legitimate. However, no single technology will secure a transaction with complete certainty. The key is to keep up to date with authentication solutions while ensuring seamless processes for your customers or users.


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