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[Explained] Access keys: What are they, how do they work and can they replace passwords?

[Explained] Access keys: What are they, how do they work and can they replace passwords?

Most of you would agree that innovation in the tech world has been limited, not because no one is trying anything new, but simply because the scale of evolution is reaching a saturation point. That said, one must admit that technology companies are working hard to replace passwords to make accessing your digital accounts easier, but more secure. You’ve had password managers do most of the work and ensure you don’t have to remember the passwords for each account.

Soon the passwords will be completely replaced with new innovative products such as passwords, which are now part of the Google Chrome browser. So, what are passwords, how do they work and do they have the power to become the password replacements that everyone has been wanting? Here’s everything you need to know about them.

Also read: Google Chrome: How to view saved passwords on Google Chrome Desktop and Mobile Apps

What are access keys?

Passwords seem to have run their course, and while password managers are effective, the likes of Google don’t see it as the future. Enter passkeys, which basically use the WebAuthn standard to generate a password that matches each site and allows you to log in.

As you may be aware, password managers generate random alphanumeric passwords that are equally difficult to decrypt or hack. With the passwords, the risk of having your account hacked is further reduced. Google has introduced passkeys on Chrome for Windows 11, macOS and Android devices. You could say that Password is the evolved version of a password manager.

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Also Read: Chrome Flags: How to Enable Flags in Google Chrome Browser to Try New Features

How do access keys work?

Access keys are about converging passwords in a secure way and also leveraging the efficiency of biometric hardware features. Passkeys include a private key that is generated for each website you want to log into. It will retrieve the passwords and store them in iCloud for macOS users, Password Manager for Android and Windows Hello for those using Chrome on Windows 11. Yes, that’s right, passwords are not available on Windows 10, or Chrome OS for that matter.

Users will have the option to log in with Face ID, Fingerprint ID, or Phone Lock PIN. This way, you are always sure that unless the hardware is hacked, your accounts will be safe from any phishing attack or regular intrusion since all the passwords are locked behind a private key, which is difficult to break.

Phones have become an important tool for logging in, and passwords give it a similar status in the process. Google says passkeys can be used on websites and apps that support it. But unfortunately, the support list is tight right now, especially since most people are still on Windows 10 (over 60 percent according to Microsoft), while Windows 11 is the compatible version for passwords.

But the cross integration with a platform makes passkeys extremely useful. You can actually use an iPhone or an Android phone to choose a password and sign in to your account on a macOS or Windows 11 machine, respectively. You need Bluetooth to help discover the nearby device and give it access to said account. The connection is seamless if you have both a PC and a mobile device from the same ecosystem, or you have to log in with a QR code

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Passkeys are not transmitted through the server, instead the code generated by Web Authn is secure, meaning there is nothing to leak.

Also read: How to turn off website notifications on Google Chrome or Edge browsers on mobile and desktop

Access keys – No more passwords?

Google has rolled out Passkeys on Chrome for a limited set of websites and apps, clearly suggesting that it’s early days for the so-called password option, so it would be hard to say whether the technology would be fully secure to become the de-facto login system in near future. And if so, will the password expire? That’s unlikely to happen, even if innovative features like passwords come to the fore, but you can never say never.

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