Cybersecurity, Policies and Training, Security Hardware and Technology

Apple, Google, and Microsoft Partner to Scrap Passwords

In a joint effort to make the web more secure and usable for all, tech giants Apple, Google, and Microsoft announced plans to expand support for a common passwordless sign-in standard created by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium. The companies said the new capability will allow websites and apps to offer consistent, secure, and easy passwordless sign-ins to consumers across devices and platforms.

Password-only authentication is one of the biggest security problems on the web, and managing so many passwords is cumbersome for consumers, which often leads consumers to reuse the same ones across services. This practice can lead to costly account takeovers, data breaches, and even stolen identities. While password managers and legacy forms of two-factor authentication offer incremental improvements, the tech companies noted there has been industry-wide collaboration to create sign-in technology that is more convenient and more secure.

The expanded standards-based capabilities will give websites and apps the ability to offer an end-to-end passwordless option. Users will sign in through the same action that they take multiple times each day to unlock their devices, such as a simple verification of their fingerprint or face, or a device PIN. According to the companies, this new approach protects against phishing and sign-in will be radically more secure when compared to passwords and legacy multi-factor technologies such as one-time passcodes sent over SMS. 

Standard Expansion

Hundreds of technology companies and service providers from around the world worked within the FIDO Alliance and W3C to create the passwordless sign-in standards that are already supported in billions of devices and all modern web browsers. Apple, Google, and Microsoft said they have led development of this expanded set of capabilities and are now building support into their respective platforms.

These companies’ platforms already support FIDO Alliance standards to enable passwordless sign-in on billions of devices, but previous implementations require users to sign in to each website or app with each device before they can use passwordless functionality. The companies are now extending these platform implementations to give users two new capabilities for more seamless and secure passwordless sign-ins: 

  1. Allow users to automatically access their FIDO sign-in credentials (referred to by some as a “passkey”) on many of their devices, even new ones, without having to reenroll every account.
  2. Enable users to use FIDO authentication on their mobile device to sign in to an app or website on a nearby device, regardless of the OS platform or browser they are running.

In addition to facilitating a better user experience, the broad support of this standards-based approach will enable service providers to offer FIDO credentials without needing passwords as an alternative sign-in or account recovery method.

These new capabilities are expected to become available across Apple, Google, and Microsoft platforms over the course of the coming year.

An ‘Important Milestone’

Andrew Shikiar, executive director and CMO of the FIDO Alliance, said, “This new capability stands to usher in a new wave of low-friction FIDO implementations alongside the ongoing and growing utilization of security keys—giving service providers a full range of options for deploying modern, phishing-resistant authentication.”

Kurt Knight, Apple’s Senior Director of Platform Product Marketing, said, “Working with the industry to establish new, more secure sign-in methods that offer better protection and eliminate the vulnerabilities of passwords is central to our commitment to building products that offer maximum security and a transparent user experience—all with the goal of keeping users’ personal information safe.”

“This milestone is a testament to the collaborative work being done across the industry to increase protection and eliminate outdated password-based authentication,” said Mark Risher, Senior Director of Product Management of Google. “For Google, it represents nearly a decade of work we’ve done alongside FIDO, as part of our continued innovation towards a passwordless future.”

“The complete shift to a passwordless world will begin with consumers making it a natural part of their lives,” said Alex Simons, Corporate Vice President of Identity Program Management at Microsoft. “Any viable solution must be safer, easier, and faster than the passwords and legacy multi-factor authentication methods used today.”

Jen Easterly, Director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), applauded the agency’s private-sector partners.

“At CISA, we are working to raise the cybersecurity baseline for all Americans,” said Easterly. “Today is an important milestone in the security journey to encourage built-in security best practices and help us move beyond passwords. Cyber is a team sport, and we’re pleased to continue our collaboration.”