Microsoft has been a proponent of passwordless technology for quite some time, saying that it wants traditional and unsafe passwords to die. To that end, it has invested in various solutions over the past few years such as Windows Hello, Microsoft Authenticator, FIDO2 security keys, and a palm vein authentication system, among other things.

Now, the company has highlighted the strides it made to kill off passwords in 2020, and has stated that it plans to make them a thing of the past for all its customers in 2021.

Image via Trend Micro

Microsoft noted that almost 80% of all cyberattacks target passwords, and one in 250 corporate accounts get compromised each month due to this. That said, the company is making an effort to transition people to passwordless solutions. In November 2019, 100 million people were using Microsoft's passwordless sign-in. This number grew to 150 million by May 2020, which goes to show how millions of people are ready to ditch passwords due to the inconvenience of remembering them, coupled with how insecure they can be.

Throughout 2020, Microsoft participated in various conferences to share its vision of a passwordless future and a Zero Trust environment. It also unveiled a preview of Azure Active Directory support for FIDO2 security keys in hybrid environments, as well as a new passwordless wizard via the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. The firm engaged with multiple security partners in the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association (MISA) to drive passwordless solutions too.

The Redmond tech giant highlighted the following statistics from 2020:

  • Passwordless usage in Azure Active Directory is up by more than 50 percent for Windows Hello for Business, passwordless phone sign-in with Microsoft Authenticator, and FIDO2 security keys.
  • More than 150 million total passwordless users across Azure Active Directory and Microsoft consumer accounts.
  • The number of consumers using Windows Hello to sign in to Windows 10 devices instead of a password grew to 84.7 percent from 69.4 percent in 2019.

2021 is the year in which Microsoft plans to make passwords obsolete for all its customers. It is currently developing new APIs and a UX for managing FIDO2 security keys, and is also aiming to deliver a "converged registration portal", where customers can manage their passwordless credentials. While it hopes that 2021 marks a return to the "old normal", the company has emphasized that going passwordless will make online lives significantly easier.