Stop Using Magic Links

Written by Dom Kirby

Former MSP Owner, CyberSec Practitioner, Modern Work Pro, Evangelist, Husband & Father

April 4, 2022

Click here to get a link to login. Magic links are suddenly everywhere, and I simply refuse to accept the logic behind them. Before I rant a bit about why you shouldn’t be using them, let’s talk through the basic concept behind it:

At a high level, magic link authentication seems great right. Everyone wants to say goodbye to those annoying darned passwords and be able to conveniently access things! Yay! Here’s the problem, magic links do not perform any authentication prior to allowing you into the environment. That’s a real problem!

But Dom, the user has access to their email. NO, somebody the service assumes is the user has access to the email. The application itself does nothing to validate that the user is who they say they are, they rely on email provider. A provider where they have no control over how things are accessed. I could be using an MFAless POP email service for all the service knows. There’s no authentication here, only identification.

 

Do this instead

Stop being lazy! Implement actual authentication in a modern fashion that also brings convenience. OpenID Connect is one of the simpest ways to do it. This is typically what’s going on when you see “Login with Google” or “Login with Microsoft” buttons. My point is that, if you’re developing an app, it is your responsibility to both identify and authenticate the user. OpenID and other initiatives accomplish this quite well, and still eliminate the need to store hashses.

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