Tech Matters: How to replace your Google password with passkeys
Ready to say goodbye to passwords? Google last week rolled out Google Passkeys to users with personal Google accounts. (Business accounts will follow in the “near future,” Google said.) The passkey approach is more secure and convenient to use than a password, protects against data breaches, and is faster and more reliable than using a password.
Google stands behind this new road to online security. “Passwords are dead. May we never have to see them, remember them, or type them,” the passkey project lead Christiaan Brand, Google’s identity and security product manager, tweeted last week. Microsoft and Apple are also on Team Passkey.
The tech company also released some interesting data that revealed using a passkey had a much higher rate of authentication than using a password. Passkey users experienced successful logins on their first try 64% of the time compared to traditional password users who were successful just 14% of the time. How many times have you had to click “forgot password?” and ask for an email to reset it?
Passkeys use either a simple PIN or biometric credentials — a fingerprint or facial scan, depending on what your device uses — for signing into accounts instead of typing in a password. This process also eliminates two-factor and multifactor authentication, effective but time-consuming methods to provide an extra layer of security on top of a password.
“Those (tools) are Band-Aids we put on our passwords because they didn’t live up to the expectation that we had for them,” Brand said. “Passkeys are kind of a clean slate. At the same time, it’s a migration away from all the hassles regarding passwords.”
So what is a passkey? A passkey is made up of two parts, a public key and a private key. The private key is stored on your phone and never stored on an app’s or website’s servers. Both parts are needed to log into each app and site, which means that even if a data breach occurs, the cybercriminal cannot steal your complete login credentials as they can with stored passwords.
To set up your Google Passkeys, you will need a Google account, a smartphone connected to your Google account, your computer’s PIN and an internet connection. Go to g.co/passkeys. If you use an Android device, you’ll likely see that Google has automatically set up your passkeys for compatible devices. For everyone else, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Create a passkey.” You will have to verify your Google account via YouTube on your phone. Once you tap “Yes, it’s me” on your phone, all you have to do is enter the password or PIN that you use to unlock your computer. And that’s it, a passkey for your Google account is now available.
The next time you log in to Google, you’ll see a screen that says “Use your passkey to confirm it’s really you.” Click “Continue” and type in the passcode you use to unlock your computer (or use facial recognition or your finger) and you will be signed in to your account. No Google password, which is particularly helpful when you have multiple accounts. You will need to set up a passkey for each account, but from then on logging in is simple and quick.
Currently, there are not many apps and websites that support passkeys, but some of the most popular do. Along with your Google accounts, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Kayak, Microsoft, PayPal, Uber and Visa all offer the passkey option. To find it, log in to your account and then go to your account settings and look for sign-in options. On eBay, the passkey option is “Face/fingerprint/PIN sign in.” Click “Turn on” and a page will open asking if you are tired of passwords. Click yes and you’ll see a pop-up window with the option to create a passkey for eBay.
Indeed, you’ll have to set up a passkey for each website, but it’s a quick process. From then on, you will only need your computer’s PIN or password to access every passkey-activated site. If one of your favorite sites hasn’t yet integrated with passkeys, you likely won’t have to wait long. The end of passwords is on the horizon.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at email@example.com.