How Do I Implement Email Authentication?
By Said El Hachemy
June 18, 2021
Signing into a new platform like Facebook, Amazon, or Google is easy. With one click, you can enter the site with just your email. The website receives all your personal information and data, and you get to use the services the website provides. Many users are unaware of the policies they approve of when they sign in to these platforms, as well as the third parties the user’s email address makes contact with. In this article, we explore the workings behind email logins, the implementation of email logins for businesses, and the risks involved in the implementation of email logins.
What is an email login?
An email login uses the email address to access a website or to sign in to a service online. This authentication method doesn’t need a password to log in, thus making it user-friendly. The speed and simplicity make this authentication seem almost too good to be true. Every business should provide its users with a way to authenticate themselves when using the business’s application. With many types of authentication to choose from, businesses tend to always include email login as an option. Thus making its implementation one of the first tasks at deployment.
Who implements email authentications?
For businesses, integrating secure and user-friendly authentication methods in their applications increases the business’s reputation amongst the clients. To provide clients with these conditions, platforms like Auth0, Okta, or humanID that specialize in authentication are the best option to go for. These companies offer many types of services apart from email login, with many protective measures in place. Although some company technologies are more convenient than others, depending on the authentication mechanisms, the hashing of user’s credentials to make them incomprehensible in case of breaches, keeping user’s information for further use, or the policies regarding sharing this information with third parties. There are always better ways of authentication, including Single-Sign-Ons offered by Auth0 or humanID, passwordless login, or SMS authentication.
How to Implement Email Authentications
To implement email login, business owners should consider looking into authentication platforms that offer services corresponding to the business’s requirements, including security and privacy. Most authentication platforms offer their service for free although with limited perks, or offer plans with reasonable pricing for the full service. The platform then reserves an authentication server for the business’s clients. These companies should take into account the following:
Client-side API: Takes the user’s email and forwards it to the platform for authentication. For this side, you could make your own code, or use the Software Development Kit (SDK) that the platform offers along with the provided guide.
The Platform’s API: Performs authentication, generates a token that contains the user’s information, and sends it to your business’s API.
The Application’s API: Receives the token of the user and retrieves his data from the business’s server.
Most authentication platforms offer support for a wide variety of programming languages and web development frameworks such as Django, Flask, Firebase, and others. Since authentication platforms offer all kinds of services and logins, finding an appropriate method for user logins is not difficult. For that reason, one should prioritize the security of data and privacy of clients over the robustness and variety of the authentication platform’s services.
What are the risks with email authentications?
As convenient and user-friendly email logins can be, they do have underlying implications. As users authenticate themselves using personal credentials, authentication platforms should store these credentials in their servers. However, hackers always have the possibility to access user credentials when communicating with the authentication platform using spoofing attacks. The possibility of the success of these attacks increases when the platform’s servers are deployed on the cloud, which is known to have numerous security issues: data encryption, DDoS attacks, data leakage, and others. Another issue is that most of these platforms are usually in agreements with third-party service providers that could have access to some of your personal information, either for marketing purposes, analytics for search engines, or to complete payments. These issues do not respect user confidentiality and privacy, which should be of utmost importance. For any business, the user’s trust is the biggest advantage over its competitors. Thus protecting user’s privacy is the main selling point for authentication platforms.
There are many alternatives to email logins that are easier to implement for businesses and offer better security terms such as Single Sign-Ons and anonymous authentication. An example of this type of platform is humanID. humanID uses SMS authentication and allows users to access the application with one click. The technology does not require any passwords nor any personal information apart from a user’s phone numbers. The phone number is then irreversibly hashed and protected in databases for future authentications. After the authentication is done, the phone number is deleted and never shared with any third parties. Although user authentication has some security and privacy concerns, many technologies including email are still widely used and trusted by many businesses and users. Improving these technologies would help the community to develop a more secure and private experience.