Understand Passkeys: A Simpler, Safer Way to Log in

Are you tired of keeping track of dozens of passwords? You’re not alone. The world is moving away from the hassle of passwords, thanks to a new solution: passkeys.

Passkeys are the brainchild of tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Apple along with the support of Fido Alliance (which aims to reduce reliance on passwords with open authentication standards). This group is dedicated to making online life more secure without the mess of traditional passwords.

Why the shift? A staggering 6.7 billion unique username and password combinations have been found lurking on the dark web. With so many people reusing passwords, it's a goldmine for cyber criminals.

Passkeys offer a safer, simpler way to protect your online account. Let’s dive into what a passkey is and how it is changing the way we secure our digital lives.

What are Passkeys and How Do They Work?

Passkeys offer a fresh approach to accessing websites and apps. They were first brought into the spotlight by Apple in June 2022. Unlike passwords, which can be stolen and misused by anyone, passkeys use your device to confirm your identity. This happens in the background and is much safer because passkeys can't be stolen like passwords.

Here's how they work: Passkeys consist of two cryptographic keys. One is a public key, which is shared with the online service. The other is a private key, kept securely on your device, like your smartphone or computer. You don't need to remember anything; your device handles it all.

Using passkeys is easy. You simply use something you already know/have—like your face, a fingerprint, or a PIN—similar to how you unlock your phone. This makes logging straightforward and secure.

Image: DIW-Aigen

Even if someone gets a hold of the public key from a website, they can't access your account. They don't have the private key, which is only on your device. Plus, passkeys aren't transferred between devices. For example, if you want to log into your account from a new laptop, as long as your smartphone is nearby, you can authenticate the login securely without any passkey being exchanged.

What You Need to Use Passkeys

To start using passkeys, you'll need some specific technology. Here’s what’s necessary to make Passkeys work:

Operating System: Make sure your computer runs at least Windows 10, MacOS Ventura, or ChromeOS 109. For mobile devices, you need iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or Android 9 or higher.

Browser: Your device should have a recent browser version. Chrome, Safari, or Edge should be updated to version 109 or higher for Chrome and Edge, and version 16 or greater for Safari.

Optional Hardware: A hardware security key that supports the FIDO2 protocol can be used but isn’t required.

Major tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, Meta's Whatsapp provide detailed guides on how to set up and use passkeys with their platforms. These guides can help you get started with passkeys, ensuring your online activities are safer and more convenient.

Why Passkeys are Better than Passwords

Passkeys offer a safer way to log in. Unlike passwords, you don’t need to remember them every time you access your account. This cuts down on the hassle and the risk of forgetting them. Here is why they are more secure:

Passkeys protect against phishing attacks. In a phishing attack, someone might trick you into entering your login details on a fake website. If you use a password, that hacker can steal it. But with a passkey, there is nothing to steal. Passkeys are tied to the website they were created for, so they don’t work on fake sites. Even if you end up on a phishing site, your passkey won’t be used.

Also, passkeys don’t just protect against phishing. They are also immune to common problems like being guessed or stolen the way passwords can be. This makes them a much more secure option than passwords or even two-factor authentication methods that can still be phished.

How to Experience Passkeys before Fully Committing

If you're curious about passkeys but not ready to fully commit, you can start by trying out a demo at PassKeysIO. This site offers a hands-on tutorial that walks you through setting up and using a passkey to log into an account.

When you're ready to dive in, consider setting up a passkey for your Google Account. Google has simplified the process and provides detailed documentation to help you get started. This is a practical way to secure your account with the latest technology.

For those who use multiple devices, third-party passkey providers like NordpassDashlane offer a versatile solution. These services allow you to use your passkeys across different platforms, not just the one where you created them. This means you can log into any service, on any device, using these app or their browser extension.

In a nutshell, passkeys represent a transformative shift in online security, backed by major tech companies and the FIDO Alliance. Offering enhanced protection against cyber threats, they streamline authentication with seamless integration across devices. Passkeys promise a future where digital identity is safeguarded without the burden of remembering numerous passwords.

Read next: Weaponized AI Escalates Cyber Threats, Challenging Security Teams as Attacks Evolve in Complexity and Speed

Previous Post Next Post