Apple’s PassKeys update could make traditional passwords obsolete

Sometimes it seems like passwords have been with us forever, and yet every year we’re reminded how we still don’t use them properly!

The annual publication of the “worst passwords” list shows we haven’t become much more password savvy over the decade. And while several replacements for the humble password have been proposed, none have come close to the ease of using the traditional method.

But this changes today with the introduction of Passkeys – an update in Apple’s latest iOS 16 operating system. Passkeys could be the long-awaited solution to password malpractice, and the near-constant problem of compromised credentials.

Read more:
This New Year, why not resolve to ditch your dodgy old passwords?

What’s wrong with passwords?

The problem with passwords has been well documented. We choose weak ones, write them down (for others to see), share them, and re-use them on multiple websites.

The last of these is particularly problematic. Once your details are breached (and subsequently leaked), they’re vulnerable to “credential stuffing” – where cybercriminals take a set of login credentials and try them on multiple websites.

A yellow sticky note with a password is stuck to a computer monitor.
People still stick passwords to their monitors!
Author provided

“But I use a password manager,” you might say.

Well, that’s good. The standard advice for years has been to use password managers such as 1Password or LastPass. These let you create unique passwords for each website or service you use. So even if a website is compromised, only one password is revealed.

But this approach requires the ability to synchronise across all your devices – a feature not all password managers provide.

And even with a password manager, our passwords are still stored on the remote website we’re accessing. Although most websites store passwords in a secure (hashed) format, they are still routinely compromised. It’s estimated more than two billion sets of credentials (including passwords) were leaked online in 2021.

Along come Passkeys

Apple devices using the newest operating system release (iOS 16 or MacOS Ventura) will integrate a new password mechanism…