Are Passwords Passé? Exploring the Future of Authentication

September 22, 2023

In today's digital age, where personal and sensitive information is constantly under threat from cyberattacks, the need for robust authentication methods has never been more critical. Traditional passwords have long been the go-to method for securing online accounts and devices, but with the evolving landscape of technology and security threats, the question arises: are passwords becoming obsolete? 

The answer to this question—whether passwords will remain the standard or if they’ll be replaced or complemented by other authentication features—will have a significant impact on how people access and protect digital information. Alternatives are growing in popularity and continue to develop, though each has drawbacks that may be too much for users to look past … for now. 


hands typing password


Password Authentication: The Traditional Approach 

Password authentication has been the cornerstone of online security for decades. This method involves users creating a secret combination of characters to prove their identity. When attempting to access a password-protected resource, users provide this password, which the system then compares to the stored credentials associated with their account. If the two match, access is granted; otherwise, it's denied. 

Password authentication is simple and widely implemented. However, passwords can be stolen, shared, or forgotten, leading to security vulnerabilities. Much of their effectiveness hinges on using strong, complex passwords that are difficult for attackers to guess or crack. But through phishing attacks, users often unintentionally provide their password to bad actors. And given that some of the most common passwords are the easiest to guess—abc123, qwerty, and even password—it is not a foolproof method of digital security. 


Biometric Authentication: The Emerging Alternative 

Biometric authentication takes a radically different approach compared to traditional passwords. Biometrics leverages an individual's unique behavioral traits or biological characteristics to provide access based on recognizing the user’s fingerprints, iris, voice, and other physical features. 

Because of the uniqueness of these markers, biometrics provide an additional layer of security that is incredibly difficult to forge or replicate. They are inherently tied to the individual—your fingerprints are unique to you—making it challenging for unauthorized users to impersonate someone else. 

Similarly, because biometric traits are part of the user’s body, users no longer need to remember or manage passwords, offering a seamless and user-friendly authentication experience. This makes them hard to transfer, which reduces the risk of sharing or theft, while also making difficult for a user to deny involvement related to activity on their account. Compared to passwords, biometrics are much more resistant to traditional attack methods like brute-force attacks. 

Despite these significant benefits, biometric systems have their drawbacks, including immutability, data sensitivity, false positives and negatives, complex implementation, and limited social acceptance to date. These factors have slowed the wider adoption of biometric authentication, but it’s becoming a more accepted and attractive security option for many. 


biometrics human face


Passkeys: The Password-Free Future? 

The tech industry has long been working toward a world without passwords, and passkeys may be the promising alternative to achieve it. Developed by tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, passkeys rely on public-key encryption for security. One key is stored on the user's device, while the other is held by the service managing the account. Passkeys can also be synced to the cloud and require additional authentication, such as a passcode or biometric scan before use. 

Passkeys offer robust protection against phishing attacks and are more secure than traditional passwords. Users can connect their passkeys to accounts across multiple devices, such as a smartphone and tablet, ensuring that if one device is lost or broken, they can still access their accounts. Sharing passkeys with trusted individuals is also possible, making them a versatile authentication method. 

However, passkeys have limited availability on many popular platforms and services, and syncing across different devices can be challenging. Users may still need to rely on passwords for certain scenarios until passkeys become more widespread. 


The Path Forward 

Whether or not passwords are becoming obsolete is not a matter of choosing one over the other. The future of authentication almost certainly lies in multi-factor authentication (MFA), which combines the strengths of passwords, biometrics, and passkeys by leveraging more than one authentication method.  

A recent survey at the 2023 BlackHat USA Conference showed that 79% of attendees agreed that passwords are evolving or becoming obsolete. Additionally, 73% already use some form of MFA, 57% use an authenticator app, and 40% utilize biometrics. The shift toward stronger authentication methods is already happening. 

It's essential for individuals and organizations to adapt to this changing landscape. Implementing multifactor authentication, leveraging passkey options when available, and staying informed about the latest advancements in authentication technology will be crucial in ensuring their online presences and digital systems remain secure. 


Protect Your Data and Earn a Degree from Capitol Tech

Capitol Technology University’s award-winning degree programs in Cyber and Information Security can prepare you to guide the future of a potentially password-less world. For more information, contact our Admissions team at