June 18, 2024
Windows 11 gains support for managing passkeys

At an event today focused on AI and security tools and new Surface devices, Microsoft announced that Windows 11 users will soon be able to take better advantage of passkeys, the digital credentials that can be used as an authentication method for websites and apps.

Once the expanded passkeys support rolls out, Windows 11 users will be able to create a passkey using Windows Hello, Windows’ biometric identity and access control feature. They’ll then be able to use that passkey to access supported webs or apps using their face, fingerprint or PIN.

Windows 11 passkeys can be managed on the devices on which they’re stored or saved to a mobile phone for added convenience.

“For the past several years, we’ve been committed to working with our industry partners and the FIDO Alliance to further the passwordless future with passkeys,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post this morning. “Passkeys are the cross-platform, cross-ecosystem future of accessing websites and applications.”

Microsoft began rolling out support for passkey management several months ago in the Windows Insider dev channel, but this marks the capability’s general availability.

Big Tech players beyond Microsoft, including Google and Apple, have begun to coalesce around passkeys technology. Roughly a year ago, Microsoft, Google and Apple together pledged to adopt the password-free sign-in standard, colloquially known as “passkeys,” from the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium — and the effort appears to be slowly bearing fruit.

With passkeys, users’ authentication synchronizes across their devices through the cloud using cryptographic key pairs, allowing them to sign in to websites and apps using the same biometrics or PINs they use to unlock their devices. This makes it far more difficult for bad actors to access users’ accounts remotely, given that physical access to a user’s device is needed.

While multifactor authentication systems and password managers offer reasonable security improvements over traditional passwords, they’re not without their flaws. An authentication code sent via SMS can be intercepted, for example. And for some, having to use a third-party password management tool can be simply too much of a hassle.

Last year, Google announced that Android and Google Chrome would support passkeys, and in May, it brought passkey support to personal Google Accounts and its login services. iOS gained passkey management tools in September. Dashlane was the first company to support storing passkeys in a web browser extension, followed by NordPass in February 2023. And websites such as GitHub.com, PayPal and DocuSign.com now work with passkeys.

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