Google starts taking steps to make passwords "a rarity, and eventually obsolete"

Google is intensifying its effort to push users away from passwords to passkeys, a more secure technology.

The company, on Tuesday, announced passkeys would become the default option across Google accounts. That means the next time users sign into their Gmail, YouTube or other Google-run service, they’ll see a prompt to create and use a passkey instead of a password. (While passkeys will be the default option, users who prefer to continue using passwords will have that option.)

Passkeys are being touted as a replacement for passwords. By using your fingerprint, a scan of your face or your screen lock PIN, you’re automatically logged into an app or website (once you approve the request). Basically, it’s using your device to prove that you’re really you.

They work by generating a pair of keys — one public, which is stored on the cloud, and one private, which is stored on the device. If a server is compromised, accounts are still protected, as the hacker won’t have both sets of keys.

Proponents of the technology say it’s much more secure option, since too many people opt for simple passwords or utilize the same ones on multiple websites. And even fewer use two-factor authentication.

“We’ve found that one of the most immediate benefits of passkeys is that they spare people the headache of remembering all those numbers and special characters in passwords,” Google wrote in a blog post. “They’re also phishing resistant.”

Google first began supporting passkeys in May, but this escalation of the technology’s support is a pivot, the company says that it hopes will make “passwords a rarity, and eventually obsolete”.

Google’s not the only company pushing for a move to passkeys. Microsoft, Uber and Ebay have enabled the technology. And Apple, in June, said passkeys would be supported with the launch of iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma.

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