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6 ways to optimize your magic links for safety

These six tips can be a great start in ensuring your safety and your customers’ by using magic links.

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About 52 million data breaches occurred worldwide within the second quarter of 2022.

While the number is down by 56 percent from the prior quarter, it still adds to the reasons for enhancing your cybersecurity.

One way to do that is by going passwordless with magic links. You’ve probably heard of the advantages of magic links over passwords to your business.

Aside from being easier to deploy and use, they also cause fewer login issues and cart abandonments, increasing conversions.

Even for your customers, magic links can be incredibly convenient. They’re intuitive to use and will work on practically every single device. 

The question is, do magic links live up to the hype of being safer alternatives to passwords? The answer is yes—with a condition. They must be optimized for safety.

Read on to learn more about keeping your magic links faithful to your cybersecurity strategy.

Reinforce with extra layers of authentication  

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Without optimization, magic links are only as safe as a user’s primary email address. If hackers find their way into your customer’s account, any magic link you send will also be compromised.

That means hackers could soon be groping their way to you. It’s where multi-factor authentication (MFA) comes in. 

Fortifying your magic links with additional user verification processes, such as SMS or biometrics, keeps hackers from going further.

They may make it to your user’s inbox where your link is, but that’s likely where their adventure will end. 

Disallow multiple use

The danger with magic links is that they can get passed around among different users. Whether or not these people should have access to these links is immaterial.

Besides, with the speed of email transmission, it’s impractical to trace every recipient who ends up with your link. 

This absence of control is, in itself, a magnet for hacking. Hence, ensure that your magic links are set up for single use only once you send one out.‍

Attach an expiration date

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One of the most basic ways of optimizing your magic links for safety is by attaching an expiration date. The common practice is to leave your users a one-hour window before deactivating the link.

How this works for protection is clear. The shorter the time your link is exposed, the smaller the window of opportunity for hackers to attack. 

Don’t worry about irking your customers with the expiration feature. If they miss the one-hour window, you can always offer to give them another link. 

Just because magic links are safer than passwords doesn’t mean you can’t protect them with the same time-honored password safety practices.

When generating your own magic links, protect them by storing, hashing, and salting them properly. ‍

If you’re using a third-party service for link generation, keep your client secret safe on the server side.

Ensure that you have a way of controlling access to this vital piece of code. Otherwise, an attacker could use it to impersonate you and your users.  

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A threat to your magic link can start when someone signs up with an authentication service using your customer’s email address.

That means the imposter can access any magic links you send to that customer’s inbox. 

To fight this vulnerability, add a second link in a web browser during your user sign-up email verification process.

But that link should only appear after your customer has clicked the magic link you sent previously. The idea is to ensure that no one but this particular user can complete the registration process.    

Communicate with your users   

Your customers play a significant role in securing the magic links you send them. As end users, they have as much control as you do—perhaps more—over how or where these links end up.

Then again, they may not realize the danger involved, so feel free to communicate it to them. Despite using technology regularly, some people need to be more tech-savvy to know their risks.

A simple note that reminds them never to share the link can save both of you a great deal of trouble.

Sometimes, they may not even realize that it’s a magic link, so tell them using polite but straightforward language. 

Higher standards for security, user experience 

A magic link is safer than a password, but like any other cybersecurity technique, it’s not infallible. It has its share of vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can abuse.

The good news is there are ways and means to circumvent the risks without taking away from the benefits. Experts have yet to establish best practices for using magic links.

However, these six tips can be a great start in ensuring your safety and your customers‘.

From adding layers of authentication to communicating with your users, you can help make this age of passwordless logins golden.

Have any thoughts on this? Carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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