Passkeys are a secure and robust alternative to passwords. They are specifically designed to protect against phishing attacks, simplify the login process, and eliminate the need to remember and manage multiple passwords.
Standardized by the FIDO Alliance, passkey authentication leverages public key cryptography and biometric authentication to verify a user. Unlike passwords that are stored on servers, passkeys are stored on user devices. This means that even in the event of a server breach, passkeys will not be stolen.
When a user registers on a passkey-enabled website, a unique passkey is generated and stored on their device. From that point forward, every login attempt to the website can be authenticated seamlessly using either a biometric sensor, such as facial recognition or a fingerprint scan, or by scanning a QR code.
Passkeys are cross-platform and cross-device, which means that you can use the same passkey to log in to a website or app from any device. For example, if you create a passkey for a website on your Mac, you can use the same passkey to log in on the website from your iPhone or iPad.
Passkeys and passwords are two fundamentally different methods of authentication. Let us explore their key differences:
Passwords are created by the user, making the user responsible for remembering them. This can be difficult, especially if the user must remember multiple passwords for different apps. Based on company policies, passwords need to be updated regularly. Conversely, passkeys never need to be updated. Passkeys are generated by the service provider and remembered by the user’s device, shifting the burden away from the user.
While passwords are inherently insecure, passkeys are secure and phishing-resistant by design. Users often choose weak passwords or reuse them across different accounts (both corporate and personal), making them susceptible to compromise. Additionally, passwords can be intercepted, guessed or stolen through data breaches.
Passkey authentication uses encryption and device-bound storage to enhance security. Moreover, private keys are never shared with the application a user is logged into. By eliminating the need for users to remember passkeys, the risk of password reuse or misplacement is effectively eliminated.
Managing multiple passwords can be burdensome for users. Frequent password changes and complex requirements can be frustrating, and this may cause users to adopt unsafe practices, such as writing passwords down or storing them in insecure locations.
Passkey authentication is a more seamless, user-friendly and sustainable way to access applications. Users can log in to an application by scanning a biometric or entering a device PIN, regardless of the device they are using.
Passwordless authentication refers to any method that eliminates the need to use passwords for authentication. This can be done using different factors, such as biometrics, device PINs, physical security keys or passkeys.
Since passkey authentication replaces passwords with passkeys, passkey authentication is a type of passwordless authentication.
Now let’s explore the passkey authentication workflow:
Passkey authentication achieves MFA in a single step. While the user only needs to perform a biometric scan or enter the device pin, the underlying authentication process combines two factors: the passkey itself and the biometric/device pin. This streamlined approach enhances security without adding friction to the login experience.
Passkey authentication offers several advantages for businesses:
Passkey authentication has potential drawbacks and challenges that you should also consider.