Should you be swapping passwords for passkeys?

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Written by

Brendan Roberts - MSP Operations Manager

Published Tuesday, May 30, 2023.
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Passkeys are being promoted as the successor to passwords by big tech, so - what are they all about?

Passwords, despite being the most commonly employed means of authentication, suffer from inherent weaknesses. They are frequently susceptible to guesswork or theft, with the added risk of individuals adopting the same password for multiple accounts, rendering them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The burden of managing a vast array of passwords often leads to habits that compromise their security, such as utilizing feeble combinations and storing them in insecure manners.

Alarming statistics reveal that 61% of all data breaches involve compromised login credentials, either through theft or hacking. However, in recent years, a superior alternative has emerged known as passkeys. These passkeys offer enhanced security compared to passwords, while also furnishing a more convenient method for accessing one’s accounts.

So, What are Passkeys?

Passkeys operate by generating a distinctive code for each login endeavor, which is subsequently verified by the server. This code is formulated through a combination of user-specific information and details regarding the device employed for logging in. In essence, passkeys serve as digital credentials, enabling individuals to authenticate themselves in web services or cloud-based accounts without the necessity of entering a username and password.

This authentication technology capitalizes on Web Authentication WebAuthn, a fundamental element of FIDO2, an authentication protocol. Instead of relying on a unique password, it employs public-key cryptography to authenticate users. The user’s device securely stores the authentication key, which can be a computer, mobile device, or dedicated security key device. This stored key is then utilized by websites that have implemented passkeys to facilitate the user’s login process.

Why are Passkeys better than Passwords?

Better Security

Passkeys possess a notable advantage over passwords in terms of enhanced security. They present a formidable challenge for hackers, particularly when the key is generated through a blend of biometric and device data. Biometric data encompasses factors such as facial recognition or fingerprint scans, while device information comprises details like the device’s MAC address or location. This amalgamation of biometric and device data renders it significantly more arduous for malicious actors to illicitly access your accounts.

Much More Convenient

Another notable advantage of passkeys compared to passwords is their inherent convenience. With password-based authentication, users frequently struggle with the burden of memorizing numerous complex passwords, which can be both challenging and time-consuming.

The common occurrence of forgetting passwords adds to the inconvenience, often requiring users to undergo the process of password reset, causing delays for employees. On average, resetting a password consumes approximately three minutes and 46 seconds each time.

Passkeys alleviate this predicament by offering a single code that can be utilized across all accounts. This streamlines the login process, making it significantly easier to access multiple accounts without the risk of forgetting or misplacing passwords. As a result, passkeys enhance convenience while reducing the likelihood of password-related inconveniences.

Higher Resistance to Phishing

Credential phishing scams have become increasingly common, where scammers employ deceptive emails to trick users into believing that there is an issue with their account. The unsuspecting users are then directed to click on a link, leading them to a disguised login page specifically designed to illicitly obtain their username and password.

However, when users authenticate themselves using passkeys, these phishing attempts are rendered ineffective. Even if a hacker manages to acquire a user’s password, it becomes inconsequential since they would still require the passkey authentication tied to the user’s device in order to compromise the account. Passkeys serve as an additional layer of protection, thwarting the efforts of hackers attempting to gain unauthorized access.

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Okay, Are There Reasons to Not Use a Passkey?

Passkeys are undoubtedly poised to become the forefront of authentication technology in the future. However, it is important to acknowledge that there are certain challenges one may encounter when implementing them at present.

Low Passkey Adoption Rate at Present

A significant drawback of passkeys is their current lack of widespread adoption. Many websites and cloud services still predominantly rely on traditional passwords, lacking the capability to support passkeys. As a result, users may find themselves compelled to continue using passwords for certain accounts, at least until passkey technology becomes more universally accepted.

This situation can create a somewhat awkward scenario where passkeys are utilized for some accounts while passwords remain necessary for others. The coexistence of passkeys and passwords during this transitional phase can introduce a degree of inconvenience and potential confusion for users managing multiple accounts.

Hardware & Software Requirements

One advantage of passwords is their inherent simplicity and cost-effectiveness. They are freely created by users when signing up for a website, requiring no additional hardware or software.

In contrast, passkeys necessitate the implementation of extra hardware and software to generate and validate the unique codes. Initially, this setup cost can pose a financial burden for businesses. However, it is important to recognize that the enhanced security and improved user experience offered by passkeys can potentially outweigh the initial investment. The benefits derived from heightened security measures and streamlined authentication processes can result in long-term savings, ultimately justifying the cost associated with adopting passkeys.

Passkeys Are Here to Stay!

Passkeys undeniably offer a superior level of security and convenience compared to passwords. Their resilience against hacking attempts and streamlined login process make them an appealing alternative. However, it is worth noting that passkeys have not yet achieved widespread adoption. Moreover, businesses may need to allocate resources in their budgets for the implementation of passkey systems.

Despite these challenges, passkeys present a promising solution to address the pervasive issue of weak passwords. Their potential to enhance cybersecurity and increase productivity for both businesses and individuals is substantial. By embracing passkeys, organizations can fortify their defenses against cyber threats while enjoying the benefits of a more efficient authentication method.

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Seize the opportunity to implement passkey authentication for your organization. Now is the perfect time to start integrating this secure and streamlined authentication method.
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