Microsoft brings passwordless security to consumer accounts

Customers can even delete their passwords entirely if they wish

Microsoft users can now bid farewell to password logins in favour of using an authenticator app or facial recognition, according to a new announcement from the tech giant.

Corporate VP of Microsoft Security, Compliance and Identity, Vasu Jakkal, also stated on Wednesday that customers “can now completely remove the password from [the] Microsoft account”.

Instead, they can “use the Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello, a security key, or a verification code” to log into their Outlook or OneDrive accounts, with Windows users still being able to use the four-key PIN login code. Users of older versions of some Microsoft products, such as Office 2010 or Windows 8.1, will have to upgrade in order to remove the password login.

This can be done by visiting your Microsoft account, signing in, and choosing Advanced Security Options, where the Passwordless Account option can be turned on.

The decision is the latest step by Microsoft to scrap passwords from the user authentication process, although the company has stopped short of forcing its users to abandon them.

Jakkal quoted his coworker and Microsoft CISO Bret Arsenault as saying: “hackers don’t break in, they log in.”

“That has stuck with me ever since I first heard him say it because it’s so true,” Jakkal stated in a company blog post. “Weak passwords are the entry point for the majority of attacks across enterprise and consumer accounts. There are a whopping 579 password attacks every second—that’s 18 billion every year.”

The announcement comes six months after Microsoft launched passwordless accounts for business customers, yet the tech giant has been encouraging users to abandon passwords for a number of years now.

Two years ago, Alex Simons, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Identity division, told attendees of the 2019 Microsoft Ignite conference that it would take at least three years to shift all Microsoft users to passwordless login methods.

On Wednesday, Simons described Jakkal’s announcement as a “big step forward in our journey to a passwordless future”.

The news comes as former AWS SVP Charlie Bell joined Microsoft as a new Executive Vice President. Announcing the move on LinkedIn, Bell said that he would be “leading a newly formed engineering organisation: Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management”.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with this talented team to make the world safer for every person and organisation on the planet,” he added.

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