Passkeys: A General Overview

Passkey Technology With Passpack

In the rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity, Passkey Technology emerges as a groundbreaking solution, poised to redefine the traditional password paradigm.

This innovative approach leverages the robustness of public key cryptography to offer enhanced security, simplicity, and user experience. As businesses and industries increasingly adopt Passkeys, understanding their technical workings, benefits, and the role of standardizing bodies becomes crucial.

This article delves into the transformative potential of Passkey Technology, marking a significant leap towards a more secure digital world and is the first in a series of articles focusing explicitly on Passkey and discussing future technology trends in Cybersecurity.

Passwords are a necessary evil. For users, they are difficult to track, update, and recall, especially with the multiple accounts and services we all have in our daily lives. Without proper management, for hackers, they are easy to phish and compromise, especially if unsuspecting victims use weak or reused passwords. But without them, well…that’s just not possible in today’s world.

Many would argue that password use needs to be reduced, if not replaced. Consumers don’t like the user experience of having to remember and manually enter them every time they visit a site. Without a Password Manager businesses can see employee frustration and a drop in productivity when they call IT to reset lost or forgotten passwords, and the constant stream of low priority requests equally irks the IT department. Enter passkey technology, the next generation of passwordless authentication solutions.

Understanding Passkey Technology

Passkeys are like passwords, only better. They’re better because they aren’t created insecurely by humans, and because they use multi-factor authentication (biometrics) by design for undeniable identity confirmation.

There’s nothing for the user to remember. Based on FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) standards, passkeys are a replacement for passwords that provide faster, easier, and more secure sign-ins to websites and apps from our device or shared across all a user’s devices. Unlike passwords, passkeys are always strong and phishing resistant; because they use public key cryptography to create much more secure experiences.

The Rise of Passkey Technology in Cybersecurity

Passkeys are not new. The technology, technically known as “discoverable WebAuthn/FIDO2 credentials” has been around for several years. But “Passkey” is a simple marketing term thatrings a bell with most people and the biggest players in the Identity and Access Management (IAM) industry have adopted it.

That said, at Passpack we believe the primary application for passkeys presently lies in the consumer space. The business use case for passkeys is less clear today but is likely to come into focus as related management and security issues are resolved.

This article reviews the advantages and drawbacks of current passkey use in business environments.

The biggest challenge for the industry has been getting everyone on board with the same model for the future of passwordless authentication. This has been happening, with major players like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others standardizing on the same underlying passkey technology, managed through the FIDO Alliance.

The thing about passkeys, though, is that the technology is a two-way street. Both the sending and receiving partners must be capable of accepting passkeys. Out of the 5,000,000 or so websites operating around the globe today, only a small percentage are currently offering passkey authentication.

However, FIDO Alliance efforts are paying off as companies like PayPal, Yahoo! Japan, CVS Health, Home Depot, Shopify and others have announced plans to provide their customers with passkey sign-ins.

Passkey Technology Explained: How It Works

A passkey is a modern authentication technology that uses public key cryptography to enable users to log into websites and apps without having to enter a password.

Instead, with their device authenticated to the recipient website users “close the loop” the same way they unlock their phones and tablets: with biometrics such as a fingerprint, facial recognition, or voiceprint; by using a swipe pattern; or by entering a PIN. For purposes of convenience, most people will opt for biometric authentication.

Passkeys work by generating a unique key pair, which is made up of one public key and one private key. The public key is stored on the server, and the private key, or authenticator, is stored securely on the user’s device, which can be a smartphone, tablet, web browser, or a password manager app that supports passkey technology.

If the authenticator is a smartphone or other device, the private key will be stored in the device keychain. If the authenticator is a password manager, the private key will be stored in the password manager’s encrypted vault.

To authenticate a user, the server sends a challenge to the user’s device, which is signed with the user’s private key. The signed challenge is then sent back to the server, which verifies the signature using the public key. If the signatures match, the user is authenticated, and access is granted.

The authentication service does not see or ever store the private key. Biometric information, if used, never leaves the user’s device, making passkeys extremely secure.

Once configured, users can instantly sign into services and websites without having to remember or input a password; just a fingerprint or retina scan, for example.

The Future of Authentication: Passkeys and Beyond

Password Managers are still recommended. While passkeys may eventually replace passwords, they won’t replace password managers in the role as the user authenticator, storing passkeys in secure user vaults. Further, businesses will likely see a combination of passwords and passkeys to manage their access management requirements depending on the roles.

The future adoption and practices surrounding passkeys are still evolving. When these challenges are solved and passkeys become adopted by more organizations, they may indeed play a major part as an authentication option for businesses as well as consumers. For now, passwords aren’t going anywhere.

The current business solution is to use a robust password management application that enforces strong password hygiene, admin controls, and policy enforcement.

Here at Passpack we are constantly monitoring IAM industry trends and technology advancements. While the adoption of the Passkey solution is relatively small in the business realm currently it is gathering momentum. Passpack is committed to supporting Passkeys for the small to medium sized business in 2024. We continue listening to you, our customers, about your latest cybersecurity requirements please do not hesitate to contact us [email protected]

In the meantime, if you are searching for a proven alternative to secure password sharing in team-based business environments, we invite you to try Passpack free for 28 days. See how easy and affordable it is to enable secure password sharing across your entire organization with Passpack.

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