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Passkeys are created on user devices, so you must select the correct one to log in to the services and websites. Passwords are no longer required, which is one of the main advantages of this convenient, up-and-coming feature.

Passkeys are usually stored as hashes on cyber and/or email security servers. Hashing is the practice of transforming a given key or string of characters into another value for the purpose of web and email security. Unlike standard encryption, hashing is always only used for one-way encryption, and the hashed values are challenging to decode. For example, if a cybersecurity professional wants to digitally sign a piece of software before making it accessible for download on their website, they would generate a hash before and after adding their digital signature to the script or software application, making it easier to download. Once the recipient accesses the file, the browser will decrypt it and check for its two distinct hash values. The browser will then execute the same hash function method to secure the information and signature again, ensuring efficient email security. What Is Hashing 1 0Source: builtin

When a user enters a passkey, a hash is generated and compared to the data on the server. This presents user disadvantages, as there is potential for a server breach, which may give criminals an opportunity to access and crack the hashes. While hashes are unsafe from email security breaches, cybercriminals can still not decrypt the passwords, so they will not succeed in that aspect of the attack.

Let’s discuss in more depth what a passkey is and examine the pros and cons of using one so you can decide whether to exchange passwords for passkeys.

What Is a Passkey?

A passkey is a digital credential tying a user’s account to a website or application. Passkeys allow users to authenticate themselves without entering a username or password or providing any additional authentication factor. This technology aims to replace legacy authentication mechanisms like passwords.

Poor password selection and management cause company data loss and breaches. According to Finance Online, such attacks have affected 81% of companies. Therefore, businesses, employees, and individuals should avoid passwords and consider passkeys.

How Do Public Vs. Private Mechanisms Factor into Passkeys?

Now that passkeys are becoming a significant feature among many tech and software companies worldwide, users are growing accustomed to the benefits of having a passkey to log in instead of dealing with the stress and time put into remembering and using traditional passwords. The comparison between public and private mechanisms for passkeys, however, still comes into question.

A public key is stored with the company with which you created your account, and the private key is stored locally on a device used to create the passkey. After a user generates a passkey, they can log in to passkey-enabled accounts. Upon logging in, the user will be given a challenge in order to authenticate their access, and the challenge can be sent to any device or mechanism the web and email security server can reach. The authenticator uses the stored private key to solve the “challenge” and responds back to the server. This process is also known as “signing” the data to confirm you own the private key and verify your identity so you can successfully log in to your account.

How Are Major Organizations Such As Google, Outlook, Microsoft, and Gmail Using Passkeys?

Business CybersecurityMajor organizations’ use of passkeys instead of passwords is undoubtedly a big deal. Google has stated that passkeys provide a more straightforward, secure way to sign into online accounts. Users have received positive feedback about the new feature, so passkeys have become even more accessible on Google and will be a default option across personal accounts. When users sign in, they’ll be prompted to create and use passkeys, simplifying future sign-ins. There will be a “Skip password when possible” option in the Google Account settings that users can utilize to enable passkeys. However, having a password-protected Gmail will still be an option, at least for a little longer, so users can familiarize themselves with the Passkey feature.

Let’s first discuss Google. gmail.com accounts are always set up through Google, but not all Google accounts function through a Gmail account, as you can use another email security server to house your email account, such as Yahoo. Either way, so long as you have a Google account, you can create, edit, and collaborate on Google Docs. Gmail, with Google, provides more accessibility for users, making it a default option across many personal accounts, saving users so much time versus the hassle of passwords in both password-protected Gmail and other email accounts.

Microsoft and Outlook, both separate and as a team, agree on how passkeys are a more accessible option for email security. Microsoft Exchange is a server application and an email security server solution dedicated to being a network resource management platform. Outlook is an email client installed on one’s desktop for secure email. 

Both email security software believes passkeys provide a more secure and convenient way to sign in. With passkeys, you can use Windows Hello to sign in with a PIN, facial recognition, or fingerprint, making the authentication process faster and more convenient. Microsoft also believes that passkeys are the future of authentication since they're incredibly easy to use and intuitive, eliminating the need for complicated password creation processes and the hassle of remembering them to maintain a secure email.

Essentially, Google, Outlook, Microsoft, and Gmail agree on their stance regarding passkeys and passwords and which option is more beneficial for users going forward.

Steps to Setting Up Passkey Security Through All Platforms

As discussed, passkey web and email security provide users less hassle by allowing them to skip the password sign-in and use a simple and more secure method for generating and storing passkeys on all devices. As a result, passkeys don’t require as much interaction or management. Here is how to set up passkeys on multiple different platforms:

Google and Gmail Creation

  • Head to myaccount.google.com. 
  • On the left side of the page, click on Security.
  • Under How you sign into Google, click on Passkeys. If you don’t see this option, you’ll need first to click on Use your phone to sign in and link your account to a device like a phone or tablet.
  • Click on the blue Use Passkeys button.

To manually create a passkey, click the white Create a passkey button. If you’re on an incompatible PC, you’ll see a dialog box with a blue button to Use another device. You can set up a device like a phone or tablet by scanning a QR code or a security key.

Microsoft and Outlook Creation

  • Open a website or app that supports passkeys
  • Create a passkey from your account settings
  • Choose where to save the passkey. By default, Windows offers to protect the passkey locally if you're using Windows Hello. If you select the option Use another device, you can choose to save the passkey in one of the following locations:
    • This Windows device: the passkey is saved locally on your Windows device and protected by Windows Hello (biometrics and PIN)
    • iPhone, iPad, or Android device: The passkey is saved on a phone or tablet and protected by the device's biometrics if offered by the device. This option requires you to scan a QR code with your phone or tablet, which must be near the Windows device.
    • Linked device: The passkey is saved on a phone or tablet and protected by the device's biometrics if offered by the device. This option requires the linked device to be close to the Windows device, and it's only supported for Android devices.
    • Security key: the passkey is saved to a FIDO2 security key, protected by the key's unlock mechanism (for example, biometrics or PIN)
  • Select Next and complete the process on the chosen device

What Are the Pros of Having a Passkey?

CybersecThere are many benefits to consider when switching from a password-protected Gmail or other web account to a passkey, including:

  • Passkeys are more tricky to crack than passwords. Each passkey is distinct and linked to the user’s device via a public/private cryptographic pair, making it much more difficult for an attacker to gain unauthorized access without physically possessing the device.
  • Passkeys provide a smoother user experience, allowing users to sign in conveniently and securely without a password. Individuals frequently forget and reset passwords, resulting in an unpleasant user experience. However, with passkeys, users no longer need to create or remember complex passwords.
  • Every passkey is strong by default. You don’t have to manually generate anything or worry about whether your private key is long enough or random enough. All you have to do is create an account and request that your authenticator generate a secure public and private key pair on your behalf.
  • Passkeys are convenient and more suitable to use than passwords. Users don’t need to remember long, complex passwords and can log in to their accounts more speedily and efficiently.

What Are the Cons of Having a Passkey?

Although having a password is suitable for email security purposes and creates an extra step for hackers to try to get into a user’s device, there are still some downsides to consider, including:

  • The Learning Curve: Passkeys are a new and unfamiliar technology for many users, making it difficult to adopt and integrate this method into their daily routines. Users may need to learn how to use their passkey device and adjust to the new authentication process. Passkeys are also device-specific. Syncing functionality is not widely available yet, but many password managers and operating systems may support syncing eventually.
  • Most websites and apps do not support passkeys. This, too, will change in the future as support is spreading. Only some sites and services support this web and email security feature.
  • Losing access to a device. If users lose access to all their devices, they may have trouble recovering account access. Most sites and services support account recovery options if a password has been forgotten. Similar functionality may be provided for passkeys, which may involve providing IDs or other forms of legitimation. Passkeys support recovery keys, but these need to be saved by the user actively.
  • Biometrics Issues: Because passkeys can only be created using biometrics, there may be a problem verifying your account. To use it, you must ensure your fingers are clean, or your face is clear so the device can recognize you every time you log in. Also, passkeys may be more challenging for users with disabilities or older devices.

Final Thoughts on Passkeys vs. Passwords

Passkeys essentially provide a more secure way for users and individuals to ensure information and email protection. They may eventually replace traditional passwords due to their added email security and convenience. Paskeys were developed by major companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft to innovate the future of Internet security. Have you made the switch?