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Published : Apr 26, 2023
Apr 2023
Assess ? Worth exploring with the goal of understanding how it will affect your enterprise.

The "end of passwords" might be near, finally. Shepherded by the FIDO alliance and backed by Apple, Google and Microsoft, passkeys are nearing mainstream usability. When setting up a new login with passkeys, a key pair is generated: the website receives the public key and the user keeps the private key. Handling login uses asymmetric cryptography. The user proves that they're in possession of the private key, but, unlike passwords, it’s never sent to the website. On users' devices, access to passkeys is protected using biometrics or a PIN.

Passkeys can be stored and synced within the Big Tech ecosystems, using Apple's iCloud Keychain, Google Password Manager or Windows Hello. In most cases this works only with recent OS and browser versions. Notably, storing passkeys in Windows Hello is not supported on Windows 10. Fortunately, though, the Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) makes it possible for passkeys to be kept on a different device other than the one that creates the key or needs it for login. For example, a user creates a passkey for a website on Windows 10 and stores it on an iPhone by scanning a QR code. Because the key is synced via iCloud the user can log in to the website from, say, their MacBook. Passkeys can be stored on hardware security keys, too, and support for native apps has arrived on iOS and Android.

Despite some usability issues — for example, Bluetooth needs to work because device proximity is checked when a QR code is scanned — passkeys are worth considering. We suggest you experiment with them on passkeys.io to get a feeling for their usability.

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