What are Magic Links and how are they Used?

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In our blog, we always try to share our security knowledge for our customers so that people can benefit not only from your products but also from our security expertise. Today in this post we explain and talk about Magic Links.

What are Magic Links?

Chances are you may have already used them without knowing that they were Magic Links. To understand what Magic Links are, let’s have a look at some examples.

Magic Links Examples

  1. When you want to join a website, in most of the cases, the host asks you to provide your email address. When you complete the joining form, the website will send you a verification email or an SMS text. When you click a button or a link in the email or SMS text, it will bring you to the website you just joined without requiring you to enter your password.
  2. Another example is that if a website or an enterprise system has a Magic Link feature, you will be prompted to enter your email address on the login page. When you put in your email, a MagicLink will be sent to your email. You can simply use that link to login without typing a password.  

Why Magic Links?

So, why do people use MagicLinks? We can obviously see the convenience since you don’t have to memorize your password. But, is it just for freeing you from remembering a password? There are more important benefits.

  1. MagicLinks prevents password leaks and hacking attacks. It is not a secret that one of the most common hacking attempts targets passwords. Credential stuffing and phishing have been also on the rise. Amid these potential risks, magic links can protect us from these attacks. Basically, the use of magic links will remove inherent risks that weak password and poor management, which can lead to a password breach. Also, since people tend to use the same password on other websites, there could be second or third websites at risk.
  2. Magic links are published every time you start a new session. In other words, it is ideal for a single-use case. If you use a system or an app that’s designed to authenticate infrequently, magic links can be a good solution.
  3. Developers can use magic links to make registration and verification simple. Since you can rely on magic links to verify an email address and confirm registration, developers and tech supporters can have less trouble with troubleshooting.

Why are they mysterious?

To non-technical people, magic links can be seen as mysterious because all you do is simply click a link to verify yourself. But, unlike the name, there is no magic in Magic Links.

What happens behind the scene?

When you implement Magic Links in your system, a user is sent an email with a link. As now you know, the link allows the person to login directly when clicking the link. The whole process is similar to when you reset your password. You receive a secret link that allows you to skip entering your password and create a new one.

With magic links, developers don’t need to care about resetting a password since it is a passwordless process. Instead, they can focus only on sending a secret one-off link to the user’s email address. The link shouldn’t be reusable.

You can control how long the link can stay valid or let the link alive during the user’s session. When a user clicks the link, it sets a cookie that keeps the person logged in for the session duration. This means, however, if you use a magic link in two different browsers, it cannot work properly when your magic link is session-based.

Are they safe?

There is a growing number of organizations that have started using Magic Links. The passwordless solution offers many benefits. But, there is no technology that’s perfect.

Pros

  • Easy authentication implementation and use
  • Smooth user onboarding
  • Reduced support load for password-related troubleshooting
  • Less vulnerable to password attacks
  • App-friendly thanks to the ease of use

Cons

  • Security is closely tied to the user's email account.
  • From the admin's perspective, you cannot monitor and control the user's personal email accounts.
  • Your email account should be reliable and secure. Plus, if you don’t use a secure network to access your email account, it can be susceptible to interception hacking attacks.

Conclusion

We have learned about magic links and their benefits in terms of security and usability. Although it provides much convenience to developers and users, it may not be for everyone. If you like password-based authentication, TeamPassword will be the right solution for you.


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