D. Štrbac

Email Authentication Is Intuitive

Email serves a vital role in online authentication. Without an email address, creating an account on most websites is nearly impossible. Many online stores require an email address to complete a purchase, and even popular "email killer" chat applications necessitate an email address for access.

The reason behind this requirement is evident. Email is the primary means of staying connected on the internet, receipt delivery, important communication etc. It also serves as a lifeline for password recovery. When users forget their passwords, email is often the sole way to reset them.

In fact, email is so crucial for authentication that many services have eliminated the need for passwords altogether, opting instead for email-based authentication through a link. While this approach may not align with strict security standards, it significantly enhances user-friendliness. From a security perspective, if resetting a password only requires access to the associated email, passwords become an unnecessary complication.

This leads us to ponder the true nature of an email address. It is more than just a communication tool; it represents our authentic digital identity. Giants like Google, Microsoft, and Apple recognize this, offering generous free email accounts on their domains.

While email serves as a convenient universal digital key for online services, it also poses considerable security risks. It lacks privacy, security, and real-time capabilities. Being the open gateway for public content, it is simultaneously the most exposed and vulnerable part of digital infrastructure. In fact, a majority of cyberattacks originate from email messages.

Email may seem like the right authentication mechanism, but it falls short of maturity in fulfilling that role. It's unlikely to ever meet the necessary criteria for secure and reliable authentication. It's regrettable because utilizing email for authentication could completely replace the never-ending cycle of creating and forgetting passwords.

Let's imagine email authentication in a pull-based process instead of a push-based one. A website requests visitor's email address. After providing the address, the website prompts the visitor to either enter a code or click a link provided in an email message made available to the same. No actual email is "sent" to the provide email address. Instead, the authentication message is instantly made available on the "sending" side, encrypted in a way that only the provided email address can retrieve and decipher. As before, the entire authentication process takes place within the user's email client, but this time, no messages are being relayed; the message is retrieved directly at the source. The message is only readable by the final reader, ensuring absolute secrecy.

In a well-designed email system focused on security, email authentication becomes a user-friendly and reliable solution for all online services to adopt, offering a smooth experience for users. Importantly, it empowers end users with the tools to manage authentication themselves, reducing reliance on large commercial providers.