Passkeys: The Future of Passwords
When it comes to digital security, passwords have long served as the primary line of defense for users to protect their personal information. From online banking to food delivery apps to social media, we rely heavily on passwords to secure our data. However, the limitations of traditional passwords have become evident over the years. Between human error and cybercriminals becoming increasingly sophisticated, sometimes the only thing standing between cyber criminals and our sensitive information is eight characters.
In previous blog posts, we provided insight into passwords and password managers, but as the digital landscape and cybersecurity trends change, we should be keeping up. This article will cover the limitations and risks of traditional passwords and password managers and why passkeys are seen as the future of passwords.
The Rise and Fall of Passwords
From humble beginnings in the early days of computing to now, passwords have played a crucial role in ensuring the security and privacy of our online accounts. In the past, passwords were often simple and easy to guess, reflecting a time when cyber threats were less prevalent. However, the need for stronger passwords grew as technology advanced and hackers became more sophisticated, using methods like brute-force attacks, keylogging, phishing, malware, and more.
These advancements led to stronger password recommendations, including using more characters and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Though recommendations can improve your password strength, when it comes to things like length and composition, your password doesn’t actually matter. Without an extra layer of security, like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or advanced threat detection, your password is still vulnerable to countless password-based attacks every day.
Password security has seen significant developments since the popularization of MFA, an electronic authentication method that requires 2+ pieces of evidence to access an account. MFA has proven to be one of the most effective ways to protect accounts against unauthorized access. In a report released by Microsoft in 2018, they found that MFA can block over 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks.
Despite these improvements, password users are human, and humans are subject to forgetfulness and complacency. Creating and remembering unique and complex passwords for every account is difficult, leading to repeated passwords and weak protection.
Password Managers have been around for decades, with RoboForm being the first released in 2000. A password manager is a digital encrypted vault where users can store passwords securely, and it is one of the safest ways to juggle and store your accounts and passwords. Most password managers will suggest unique and complex passwords when making a new account, which streamlines the process of creating a strong password and reduces the frustration of creating and remembering a new one. Some more features that password managers have are password strength analysis, warnings when you’re reusing passwords, secure sharing, and auto-filling user credentials. Some password managers, like 1Password, have stated their plans in the near future to integrate passkey support into their platforms.
Though password managers are a great way to secure sensitive information, some drawbacks come with it. Having one password to access your password manager means there is a single point of failure if your master password is compromised or there is a breach in the password manager’s security, meaning all your passwords and accounts could be at risk.
It could also be a risk to depend on a password manager entirely. If you rely on it heavily and it suddenly becomes inaccessible due to server issues, software bugs, or other incidents, you could encounter difficulties trying to access your accounts. Additionally, you would have the challenge of remembering your master password, which should be strong and complex.
What is a Passkey?
On May 3rd, 2023, Google announced its launch of the passkey, a passwordless login for their account users to offer advanced protection. A passkey is a digital credential tied to a user account and a website that allows users to access certain accounts with pins or biometric sensors (fingerprints or facial recognition) to free them from remembering and managing passwords. Google states this technology aims to “replace legacy authentication mechanisms such as passwords.” Many companies already use passkeys in their systems, including Google, DocuSign, Robinhood, Shopify, Paypal, Kayak, and more, and it’s not unlikely that many more will follow the trend.
Why should I use passkeys?
- Passkeys are easier. Being able to authenticate your identity using your device’s fingerprint sensor, facial recognition, or PIN removes the roadblocks that come with a password manager and individually memorizing passwords. It also leaves less room for human error and vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to uncover, allowing for a simplified sign-up and login process.
- Passkeys are more secure. Because passkeys are tied to individual devices, they provide a higher security level than traditional passwords. They’re generated using cryptographic algorithms, making them more complex and resistant to brute-force attacks. Passkeys are also less susceptible to phishing attacks since passkeys are system-generated, not user-entered, and only work on their registered websites and apps, meaning users don’t need to worry about entering their passkeys on fraudulent websites or providing them to malicious actors.
- Passkeys integrate easily with MFA. Passkeys can be used as part of a multi-factor authentication (MFA) setup, where multiple authentication factors are combined for stronger security. Using a passkey can fulfill the criteria for multifactor authentication in a single step, combining the strengths of both a password and a one-time password (OTP), such as a 6-digit SMS code, which provides heightened security and offers enhanced protection.
Passkeys: A Promising Future for Password Security
With enhanced strength and resistance to common vulnerabilities, passkeys provide a powerful means of authentication and a promising future for password security. Passkeys enhance the overall security landscape by eliminating the reliance on user-generated passwords and integrating with multi-factor authentication. Their ability to meet multifactor authentication requirements in a single step and their effectiveness against phishing attacks make them an exciting advancement in password protection.
As more companies move toward passkeys and embrace innovative authentication methods, we can look forward to a future where our online accounts and sensitive data are better protected, enabling us to navigate the digital world with greater peace of mind. If you are looking to improve your cybersecurity posture, contact us today. We would love to get in touch with you.