May 3

Is the Password Finally Dead?

Happy World Password Day! Every first Thursday of May cybersecurity nerds remind us of the frailty of passwords and urge us to be smarter about protecting our online life.

Since my first AOL account, experts have been predicting the death of passwords. And with the growing popularity of passkeys, I’m finally starting to believe it might happen.

What Are Passkeys?

Passkeys are like electronic handshakes with two keys. The key that lives in your device is private and locked up until you authenticate with your biometrics (face or fingerprint).

The other key is public and sits on the server where you want to log in. When you login to a site, your device and the site use cryptographic techniques to authenticate you without a password.

All this takes place instantly behind the scenes and helps you avoid the anxiety of trying to remember the license plate of your first car. And the combo is unique to you and your devices, so it’s not something that hackers can (easily) steal.

Four passkey icons that have a figure and a key. The colors are black, white and gold.

Where Can You Use Passkeys?

I’d love to say everywhere, but that’s not the case yet. According to a recent report, about 20% of the of the world’s top 100 websites support passkeys, and that’s not enough to make it universal. But a couple of years ago Google, Microsoft and Apple (and many other big tech companies) pledged to move to passkeys, and the momentum is growing.

You might have seen Microsoft’s tool if you have used the Windows Hello login system. Today Microsoft announced that all of its consumer accounts will also support passkeys. Last fall Google made passkeys the default option across personal accounts, and their blog post today said 400 million Google accounts have used passkeys more than one billion times. Apple has offered passkeys since 2022.

How to Set Up Passkeys

To set up passkeys, you need a compatible device (most new-ish smartphones and computers) and a site that accepts them. Start with these big players:

The Top Five Reasons You Should Use Passkeys

  1. Your passwords suck. You know they do. They give you headaches. You reuse them. And you have to reset them all the time. This would let you stop using them. Why would you not?
  2. Passkeys are super fast and super easy once they’re set up. And setting them up takes very little time — less time than it takes you to reset your password.
  3. They’re soooo much more secure than passwords. It’s easy for passwords (even good ones) to be stolen. Passkeys are much more protected.
  4. All the cool kids are doing it. A recent survey of UK and US consumers revealed that more than half are using passkeys on at least one account.
  5. They’re available on sites you use a lot. Amazon, PayPal, Adobe, Hyatt and more let you enable passkeys.

Tags

business essentials, passwords, privacy, security


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  • How will this work in my every day life – like trying to help older relatives from a distance access their accounts? How to help my son move money to his checking account when he is abroad and his phone doesn’t work? When my husband forgets his phone and needs me to look something up on it, etc. and etc. This passkey thing seems to need more organization than my relatives have.

  • While I’m all for passkeys instead of passwords, I’d like to know how my survivors can access my accounts after I die. They are going to need to get in,

  • You’re always great at listing Pros & Cons – Aren’t there any downsides of passkeys? What happens with a lost/stolen phone?

    • Great point, Kim. I do indeed tend to get giddy about the new technology.

      Passkeys are stored in the cloud with the original platform. That means if you have a Google passkey, you can manage it from your Google account if you lose your phone. Yes, this might involve having to go back to resetting your original password for the account. But passkeys trump passwords and multi-factor authentication by miles. It’s the beginning of a new era, but passwords are still going to be a factor for a while.

  • Beth: “…helps you avoid the anxiety of trying to remember the license plate of your first car.”
    Me: “168LSY”
    Also Me: OMG. Where did that come from?

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