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Written by Finn Ruijter, 22 August 2023

Passkeys: the solution against hackers and password hassles

Today, we engage on a variety of social platforms, subscribe to multiple on-demand streaming services and online banking is part of the daily routine. For all these accounts, we need a password. In a perfect scenario, you have one unique and unbreakable password, per account.

Because many people can’t see the forest for the trees with all these different passwords and accounts, we often reuse passwords. These passwords are also usually easy to remember and thus easier for unauthorized persons to crack. Logically, this does not help with the secure encryption of all your data. A world without passwords will feel like a godsend to many. And that world is closer than you might think beforehand.

Function passkeys

The great originator of this new world is the Fido Alliance. This is an association with global players such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, META and Samsung on board. All of these companies will be using so-called passkeys in the coming years.

But what is the function of passkeys that prevents hackers from taking your data? Passkeys consist of two digital keys, a public key and a private key, which are generated for each account. Only the public key is shared with the platform you are logging into, the private key is exclusive to the user. With each login attempt, the private key verifies that these two keys belong together, then you can log in.

Hacking becomes wasted effort

In an age where hackers are getting smarter and smarter and using more sophisticated techniques every day to get their hands on your data, a passkey is the perfect antidote. When a hacker ensures that all public keys are leaked, your data is not at risk. After all, without a private key, no one can ever log in, and that private key is really only for you. So hackers cannot access that. Therefore, hacking databases in the future will be wasted effort.

It is hoped that with these new passkeys, phishing will also become a thing of the past. Whereas hackers can now recreate Web sites and trick users into entering their usernames and passwords, this is no longer possible with passkeys. In fact, the two keys are linked to a particular website or app. This makes it impossible to log into counterfeit websites.

Early beginnings

That the use of passkeys is still in its infancy is evidenced by the number of Web sites that support this new technique. In practice, there are very few of them, so the hacking danger still lurks. Still, you can already use the passkeys. On iOS, you can use passkeys starting with version 16. On Android, version 9 is required, and on Windows, passkeys can be used from Windows 10.

There’s no question that passkeys improve the security of your data. However, we have to be patient until all websites start supporting the passkeys. But the fact that in a few years we won’t be using a hundred different, easy or hard-to-guess passwords is only to be welcomed.