At an event today focused on AI and security tools and new Surface devices, Microsoft announced that Windows 11 users will soon be able to take better advantage of passkeys, the digital credentials that can be used as an authentication method for websites and apps.
Once the expanded passkeys support rolls out, Windows 11 users will be able to create a passkey using Windows Hello, Windows’ biometric identity and access control feature. They’ll then be able to use that passkey to access supported webs or apps using their face, fingerprint or PIN.
Windows 11 passkeys can be managed on the devices on which they’re stored, or saved to a mobile phone for added convenience.
“For the past several years, we’ve been committed to working with our industry partners and the FIDO Alliance to further the passwordless future with passkeys,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post this morning. “Passkeys are the cross-platform, cross-ecosystem future of accessing websites and applications.”
Microsoft began rolling out support for passkey management several months ago in the Windows Insider dev channel, but this marks the capability’s general availability.
Big tech players beyond Microsoft, including Google and Apple, have slowly begun to coalesce around the passkeys standard. Roughly a year ago, Microsoft, Google and Apple together pledged to adopt the password-free sign-in standard from the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium, and this effort has slowly began to bear fruit.
With passkeys, users’ authentication synchronizes across their devices through the cloud using cryptographic key pairs, allowing them to sign in to websites and apps using the same biometrics or PIN they use to unlock their devices. This makes it far more difficult for bad actors to access users’ accounts remotely, given that physical access to the user’s device is needed.
While multifactor authentication systems and password managers offer reasonable security improvements over traditional passwords, they’re not without their flaws. An authentication code sent via SMS can be intercepted, for example. And for some, having to use a third-party password management tool can simply be to much of a hassle.
Last year, Google announced that Android and Google Chrome would support passkeys, and brought passkey support to personal Google Accounts and its login services in May. iOS gained passkey management tools in September. Dashlane was the first company to support storing passkeys in a web browser extension, followed by NordPass in February 2023. And websites including GitHub.com, PayPal and DocuSign.com work with passkeys.