Apple’s Passkey Replaces Passwords With iPhone and Mac Authentication
In recent months, FIDO has taken a series of important steps to bring the password’s demise closer to reality. In March, FIDO announced it has figured out a way to store the store cryptographic keys that sync between people’s devices, calling them “multi-device FIDO credentials” or “passkeys.”
This was followed in May by Apple, Microsoft, and Google declaring their support for the FIDO standards. Jen Easterly, the director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said adoption of the standards would keep more people safe online. At the time, the three tech giants said they would start rolling out the technology “over the course of the coming year.” Microsoft account owners have been able to ditch their passwords since September of last year, and Google has been working on its passwordless technology since 2008.
When all the tech companies have rolled out their version of passkeys, it should be possible for the system to work across different devices—in theory, you could use your iPhone to log in to a Windows laptop, or an Android tablet to log in to a website in Microsoft’s Edge Browser. “All of FIDO’s specs have been developed collaboratively, with inputs from hundreds of companies,” says Andrew Shikiar, the executive director of the FIDO Alliance. Shikiar confirms that Apple is the first company to start rolling out passkey-style technology and says this shows “how tangible this approach will soon be for consumers worldwide.”
Any success for a passwordless future depends on how it works in reality. At the moment, there are unanswered questions about what happens to your Passkeys if you want to ditch Apple’s ecosystem for Android or another platform. (Apple hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment.) And developers still need to implement changes to their apps and websites to work with Passkey. Plus, to gain trust in any system, people need to be educated about how it works. “Any viable solution must be safer, easier, and faster than the passwords and legacy multi-factor authentication methods used today,” Alex Simons, the head of Microsoft’s identity management efforts, said in May. In short: If cross-device systems are clunky or a pain to use, people may shun them in favor of weak but convenient passwords.
While Apple’s Passkey and Google and Microsoft’s equivalents are still some months away (at the very least), that doesn’t mean you should idly keep using your weak or repeated passwords. Every password you use—whether it’s for a one-time account used to buy DIY supplies or your Facebook account—should be strong and unique. Don’t use common phrases, names of friends or pets, or personal information linked to you in your passwords.
Instead, your passwords should be long and strong. The best way to achieve this is by using a password manager, which can help you create and store better passwords. You can find our pick of the best password managers here. And while you’re thinking about your security, turn on multi-factor authentication for as many accounts as possible.