How Google, Apple and Microsoft want to get rid of passwords

The three tech giants have agreed to build a system to authenticate without a password.

The ordeal of passwords could end within a year: Google, Apple and Microsoft announced Thursday an agreement to build a system allowing authentication without having to memorize a series of cabalistic signs. “With the new feature, consumers will be able to authenticate to websites and mobile apps easily, password-free and securely, regardless of device or operating system”summarized the association FIDO Alliance (Fast Identity Online Alliance) in a press release.

Since 2012, it has brought together industry players to work on common authentication systems. The objective, explains Google, is that users can connect to an online service simply by unlocking their smartphone (using their usual method: fingerprint, facial recognition, multi-digit code, etc.) Concretely, a website can ask the user if he wants “authenticate with your FIDO credentials”. This message will appear simultaneously on his phone, where the user will just need to accept, by unlocking his screen, to be connected to the site.

Implementation within twelve months

Smartphones will keep these coded identifiers, called “passkey” (access key). The three technology giants have committed to implementing this new system within twelve months, on Android and iOS (the mobile operating systems of Google and Apple), on Chrome, Edge and Safari (the browsers of Google, Microsoft and Apple) and on Windows and macOS (the Microsoft and Apple operating systems for computers). “Authentication with passwords only is one of the biggest security issues on the web”notes Apple in its press release.

Unable to manage so many different passwords, individuals often reuse the same one, which facilitates account takeovers, data leaks and identity theft. “The new approach will protect against phishing and logging into a service will be radically safer than passwords and other technologies like one-time codes sent via text message,” adds the iPhone maker. The three American companies made their announcement on the occasion of World Password Day. Alex Simons, vice president of Microsoft, mentioned in the FIDO Alliance press release a “complete transition to a passwordless world” or “consumers would get into the habit of doing without it on a daily basis”.

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