Danish Kapoor
Danish Kapoor

The Windows 11 update will bring more than just AI: passkeys arrive, a big step towards a future without passwords

Microsoft held a very special event this week in which it announced an avalanche of new AI in Windows 11 and, in addition, new devices from the Surface family. The next major update of its operating system will undoubtedly be one of the most relevant in recent times, but it will not only be because of this ambitious integration of the assistance of artificial intelligence systems. There is (at least) another striking section thanks to the arrival of passkeys.

What are passkeys. Passkeys are a type of encrypted key, they are based on WebAuthn cryptographic keys, and they use a user device, such as a computer, mobile phone or a security key. What you basically do is create a passkey on one device, and then you can use it to log in to others.

Passkeys in Windows 11. Microsoft already introduced this security mechanism in June 2023. It did so in the preview versions of Windows 11 that are available to members of the Windows Insiders program. Now they have announced that this option reaches all users as part of the big Windows 11 update that will be available starting next September 26.

(Almost) All advantages. According to Microsoft, passkeys are the future of authentication systems. “They are incredibly easy to use and intuitive, eliminating the need for complex password creation processes and the hassle of remembering them.”

Where are they used. Whether you can use passkeys not only depends on you creating and having them, but also on whether you can use them wherever you want. For now, adoption is limited and only some services and web platforms accept passkeys, but the list—like the one they have at 1Password—is growing. Its adoption is expected to accelerate with the support this technology has already received from Apple, Google and now Microsoft.

How are they used? Easy: when you access a website that supports this technology, it asks you if you want to create a passkey. This creation of the passkey is associated with your fingerprint or your face (Face ID), and it is not necessary to remember anything. The next time you want to log in to that website, you will be asked if you want to use the passkey that was created and saved on your device: just say yes (and use your fingerprint or face) to log in. This system based on a public and private key pair prevents, for example, possible phishing attacks or traditional massive password theft on large servers. No typed passwords, and no two-step authentication: passkeys simplify everything.

Windows Hello as a pillar of the system. As indicated by Microsoft, Passkeys in Windows 11 are created through Windows Hello. These keys can be accessed on both a PC or laptop and a mobile device used to authenticate the user’s identity. The process is a kind of evolution of what we already do when using two-step authentication, but it avoids traditional password creation to make use of a more transparent and user-friendly system.

Patience. The aforementioned support from Apple, Microsoft and Google is essential for this technology to definitively take off, and it is to be expected that from here on the adoption of this technology will spread to all types of platforms. All that remains is to be patient and, when each of them allows it, take the step and replace the traditional authentication method with some passkeys that seem really promising when it comes to making us forget (forever?) passwords.

Image | Onur Binay

Danish Kapoor