What Is a Passkey? The Future of Passwordless Authentication

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Passkeys have the potential to replace passwords for logging in to websites and applications. Instead of using “Password123!” you could be using your fingerprint, face recognition key, screen lock pin, or even an iris recognition to access your accounts passwordless.

Passkeys are a lot easier to manage and are resistant to phishing, harvesting and other credential attacks, which is why it’s making its way into the mainstream as a more secure and convenient authentication method. Just last week, Google announced that it will support passkeys for Google accounts.

With passkeys, there is no need to remember complex passwords that are difficult to type and can be easily forgotten. They are also more secure than passwords because they require physical presence or knowledge of the user’s device, making them much harder to hack. There are a number of authentication scenarios where passkeys can be used, including mobile devices, computers, and online accounts.

How Passkeys Work

Passkeys work by using biometric authentication or a unique code to authenticate a user’s identity. There are different types of passkeys, including fingerprint recognition, face recognition, iris recognition, voice recognition, and screen lock pins.

Here’s a brief overview of how each of these passkey approaches works.

1. Fingerprint Recognition

Fingerprint recognition uses a device’s biometric sensor to capture the unique patterns of a person’s fingerprints. When a user places their finger on the sensor, the device compares the captured image with the stored image on the sensor, comparing the captured image with the stored fingerprint data to verify the user’s identity. This passkey is a popular and reliable method because fingerprints are unique to each individual and it is difficult to fake or imitate.

2. Face Recognition

Facial recognition uses the device’s front-facing camera to capture a person’s face and match it against the stored facial data. This type of passkey uses algorithms to identify specific features of the face such as distance between the eyes and the shape of the jawline. It is is convenient and easy to use but it may not be as accurate as other methods especially in a low light or with changes in appearance such as facial hair or makeup.

See the Best Facial Recognition Software for Enterprises

3. Iris Recognition

This kind of passkey uses the device’s camera to capture the unique patterns of a person’s iris, the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil. Iris recognition technology is very accurate and difficult to spoof because the patterns of the iris are complex and distinctive. Although this method is highly secure and effective, it requires a high-quality camera and may not be as convenient as other methods.

4. Voice Recognition

Voice recognition uses the device’s microphone to capture a person’s voice and match it against stored voice data. This passkey method analyzes different vocal factors such as pitch, tone, and accent to identify the user’s voice. It is convenient and can be used in situations where other methods may not work, such as when the user’s hands are occupied. Even though this passkey is convenient, it may not be as secure as other methods because voices can be spoofed by using recordings, impersonations, and vocal sound manipulation technologies — particularly as AI capabilities continue to improve.

Also read: ChatGPT Security and Privacy Issues Remain in GPT-4

5. Screen Lock Pin

Screen lock pins use a unique code such as a PIN, pattern or mobile password to authenticate the user’s identity. The user must enter the correct code or pattern to unlock the device or website. Screen lock pins are easy to use and can be very secure if the user chooses a strong code. While screen lock pins are convenient and easy to use, they may be vulnerable to attacks such as keylogging, where hackers capture the user’s keystrokes to learn the code.

6 Benefits of Passkeys

As a passwordless authentication solution, passkeys offer a range of benefits that traditional passwords cannot match. From improved security to reduced password fatigue, passkeys could eliminate many of the problems with passwords and transform the way users log in into their accounts and interact with websites and applications. Here are six benefits of passkeys.

1. Increased security

Phishing attacks are a common type of cyber attack where hackers use fake emails or websites to trick users into giving away their login credentials. With passwords, users may be more vulnerable to these attacks because they are required to enter their password on a website or in an email, which can be easily intercepted or stolen. Passkeys provide an effective solution to this problem by eliminating the need for users to enter their passwords.

Learn more about Social Engineering Attacks

2. Convenience

Passkeys are a lot easier to manage and faster to use compared to passwords. Users don’t need to remember complicated passwords and they can access their accounts quickly and easily with a single touch or look. This can save time and frustration, especially when users regularly change passwords and access multiple accounts.

3. Reduced password fatigue

Password fatigue is the feeling of frustration that comes from having to remember multiple complex passwords (or having to reset them when they’ve been forgotten). Passkeys can reduce password fatigue since users only need to remember one passkey method to access all their accounts. And the seamless approach of passkeys can improve employee productivity too, with no need for multiple passwords across accounts.

Also see the Top Single Sign-On (SSO) Solutions

4. Lower risk of data breaches

Passkeys can help decrease the risk of data breaches because they eliminate the need for passwords, often the weakest link in a security system. Passwords can be easily guessed or stolen and even found on the Dark Web, but passkeys are much harder to crack. By using passkeys in business, companies can protect their users’ personal information and prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

5. Better user experience

Aside from enhancing the security of user accounts, passkeys also offer a superior user experience compared to traditional passwords. The seamless user experience can greatly improve customer satisfaction and help businesses retain customers. The simplicity of passkeys can even increase brand loyalty among users. By providing hassle-free login processes, any business can increase brand loyalty and establish a more positive and memorable user experience.

6. Reduced costs

Traditional passwords may require businesses to spend considerable resources on password resets, account lockouts and support calls. These issues can be time-consuming and frustrating for users and help desk staff and costly for businesses. Passkeys require less maintenance and support since they utilize biometric data or unique codes. This means that businesses can reduce the amount of time and resources spent on password related issues and put those efforts to better strategic use.

Also Read: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Best Practices & Solutions

How to Create a Passkey

Creating a passkey is a straightforward process that involves determining the passkey type, setting it up on your device, testing the passkey, and using it to access your accounts. Here are four simple steps for creating a passkey for a more secure and convenient way to authenticate identity and protect sensitive information:

1. Determine the type of passkey you want to use

The first step in creating a passkey is to determine the type of passkey you want to use. There are several types available, including fingerprint recognition, face recognition, iris recognition, voice recognition, screen lock pin, or even smartcards. Choose the one that offers the best combination of security and convenience for the information you are trying to protect.

2. Set up the passkey on your device

Once you have determined the type of passkey you want to use, the next step is to set it up on your device. Depending on the passkey type, you may need to enroll your biometric data or set up a unique code. If you are using fingerprint recognition, for example, you will need to enroll your fingerprints on your device. And if you are using a screen lock pin, you will need to create a unique code that only you know.

3. Test the passkey

After you have set up your passkey, it’s important to test it and ensure that it is working correctly. You should try accessing your device or account using your passkey and verify that you are granted access.

4. Use the passkey to access your accounts

Once you have set up and tested your passkey, you can use it to access your accounts. Simply follow the prompts on your device, or the website or application you are trying to access to authenticate your identity using your passkey.

Logging In to Websites & Applications Using Passkeys

Logging into your online accounts can be a hassle, especially if you have to remember multiple login user credentials with multiple complex passwords — or repeatedly sign into a password manager that contains all your passwords. Passkeys will provide you a more convenient and secure alternative. You can use different methods to authenticate your identity that are faster, easier and more repeatable than typing a password. This not only saves time, but also enhances user experience.

See the Best Password Managers for Business & Enterprises

Passkeys vs Passwords

Passkeys and passwords are significantly different methods of authentication for accessing websites and applications.

Passwords are a string of characters, typically a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, that are used to authenticate a user’s identity. Passkeys, on the other hand, use unique biometric data or a unique code to authenticate a user’s identity. Passkeys are more secure than passwords because they are more difficult to replicate, making it harder for hackers to gain access to user accounts.

Passkeys are generally considered more convenient than passwords because they do not require users to remember a complex string of characters. They offer increased security and convenience compared to passwords.

Passkeys vs Passwordless

Passkeys and passwordless essentially mean the same thing – they provide a convenient and secure way to access digital platforms and services without needing to manage cumbersome passwords. Unlike traditional password-based logins, passkeys eliminate the need for users to remember complex passwords or go through the process of entering them each time they want access to their accounts. Passkeys utilize advanced authentication methods, such as biometrics or hardware-based security tokens, to verify the user’s identity. One of the primary advantages of passkeys is their convenience, as users no longer need to create and remember multiple passwords for different accounts. Passwordless approaches also offer improved security, as traditional passwords are susceptible to various attacks.

Top Passkey Solutions

Passkeys are typically based on authentication standards and protocols developed by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), including an API called Web Authentication, or WebAuthn, jointly developed by W3C and FIDO. The FIDO Alliance boasts some of the biggest names in security, authentication, IT, cloud and finance as its members.

Many cloud services providers offer support for passkeys, and organizations looking for a solution for their own security needs could turn to a passwordless authentication or identity and access management vendor that supports a passkey approach.

FIDO has certified hundreds of products as part of the FIDO Certified program. Some of the vendor names include:

  • authID
  • Aware Inc.
  • Beyond Identity
  • HYPR
  • LoginID
  • Ping Identity
  • Thales
  • Yubico

See the Best Identity and Access Management (IAM) Solutions

Are Passkeys Here to Stay?

It is highly likely that passwordless and passkey authentication are the future, as they offer several advantages over traditional password-based authentication. Passkeys have already gained widespread adoption in the form of biometric authentication on smartphones, and many companies are beginning to explore passkey-based authentication solutions for their websites and applications.

Passkeys have the potential to revolutionize the way we authenticate our identities. By eliminating the need for insecure and difficult-to-manage passwords, passkeys can reduce the risk of data breaches and other cyber attacks. They also provide a more convenient and streamlined authentication for users, which can improve customer satisfaction and retention, not to mention employee compliance with security policies.

Bottom Line: Passkeys

As the world becomes increasingly digitized, the need for secure and reliable authentication grows with it. Passkeys offer a solution that not only improves security, but also provides convenience and simplicity for users. If security isn’t convenient, many users will find ways around it that increase security risks, and that’s a main reason why there’s a strong future for passkeys.

With the ability to authenticate using unique biometric data or codes, passkeys are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives. The adoption of passkeys by major tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google further validates the importance and potential of this authentication method. It is clear that passkeys are here to stay and have the potential to revolutionize the future of authentication.

Read next: MFA Advantages and Weaknesses

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