Apple Passkey

Apple PasskeyWith the release of iOS 16 Monday, Apple took a significant step forward in killing the password as we know it. The new technology will be known as passkeys and will allow users to log into apps and websites without a password. In the future, supported platforms will allow account creation without creating a username and password. Passkeys will sync across the iCloud Keychain for backup in the event of a lost or broken device.

Passkeys are not proprietary to Apple; they are a part of open standards from the FIDO Alliance that Google, Microsoft, and Apple are using to eliminate the need for traditional passwords.

“Now is the time to adopt them,” Garrett Davidson, an authentication technology engineer at Apple, said in a WWDC talk about passkeys. “With passkeys, not only is the user experience better than with passwords, but entire categories of security — like weak and reused credentials, credential leaks, and phishing — are just not possible anymore.”

The open standard works on the premise of a pair of mathematically related keys. One key is stored on a public server and is not secret. The second key is stored on the user’s device and is confidential. When the website or app gets a request to unlock the user, they send a request to the smartphone or device on file. The smartphone authenticates through face-ID or fingerprint and sends the authentication back to the site without sharing the private key.

Traditional usernames and passwords make the website or app responsible for the lock. Passkeys put the lock in the hands of the user. The result is a technology that’s much more difficult to phish and does not rely on user-created passwords, which are notoriously terrible.

Apple is the first to add the technology to smartphones, but Microsoft uses passwordless login with their authenticator app and Windows Hello. Android announced passkey technology would be available to developers by the end of the year. Read more on our blog post A Future Without Passwords.

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Posted by Charles Wright