Google announced a small update Tuesday that could usher in the biggest change in the history of cybersecurity: the death of the password. Going forward, so-called passkeys will replace passwords as Google’s default sign-in tool. The company says its plan is to make “passwords a rarity, and eventually obsolete.”
You’re already familiar with passkeys, even if you don’t know the word. A passkey lets you sign into your accounts using the same method that unlocks your device, such as pins or biometrics like finger or face prints. The main advantage is these methods are phishing-resistant, because a hacker needs your actual device, not just your password, to break in.
Passkeys are also a favorite of consumers because you don’t have to memorize long strings of letters and numbers. According to Google, they’re also 40% faster.
We’ve heard this one before. For at least a decade, experts predicted and called for the end of passwords, though so far they’ve been unkillable. But Google is probably better positioned than anyone else to pull the trigger, and setting a new default at a company where almost every internet user has an account is a phenomenally powerful weapon.
The next time you log in to your Google account, the company says you’ll see a prompt asking you to create and use passkeys, and you’ll be presented with the option to “Skip password when possible” if you dive into the settings on your Google account.
Passwords aren’t going away immediately, and it will be a long time before they’re phased out altogether. Google will let you keep the option to use a password, and you can opt out of using passwords altogether, for now.
If passkeys really are the answer, Google and its silicon brethren need to get the public used to them and then encourage the rest of the tech industry to join in the fight. That will take time, but countless people are already using passwords, and Google and Apple have already partnered with companies including Uber and eBay to adopt passkeys, and WhatsApp is apparently the next big fish on the passkey line.
The tech industry has a lot of work to tackle before you can forget all your passwords, but that impossible dream is now a massive step closer to reality.