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Tech Matters: Google steps up passwordless login

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 25, 2023

Photo supplied

Leslie Meredith

After introducing passkeys, an alternative to traditional passwords, as a way to log in to your Google account, the company has now made passkeys the default login option for personal Google accounts. If you didn’t give the new option a try last May, now is the time to learn how to use a passkey and why it’s better than a password.

You may have already started to see prompts to create and use passkeys. Along with the prompts, you’ll see the “Skip password when possible” option toggled on in your Google Account settings. Don’t ignore the suggestion because there will come a time when passwords won’t be an option.

“We know that new technologies take time to catch on — so passwords may be around for a little while,” Google said in its safety and security blog, The Keyword. “That’s why people will still be given the option to use a password to sign in and may opt-out of passkeys by turning off ‘Skip password when possible.'” The passkey setting is found in the “Security” tab of your settings. But it’s best to make the move now and give yourself time to adapt. I’m confident you’ll find the process painless and enjoy the ease of logging in to Google sites, as well as others, as more companies including Apple and Uber adopt the passwordless technology.

Passkeys have been shown to be 40% faster for logging in than passwords and rely on a type of cryptography that makes them more secure. A passkey is made up of two “keys” — a public one from the website and your private key that is unique to you. It is only when these two keys fit together that your identity is verified and you’re able to access a site. Unlike with passwords, your private key is not stored by the site owner, so your login information is inaccessible to cybercriminals; the public key is useless on its own. And you do not have to struggle trying to remember a lengthy password made up of letters, numbers and special characters where no two passwords are the same. I have only to think about my mother’s little notebook she carries with her that has all of her passwords written in it. I know she’ll jump on the passkey bandwagon.

If you’re not a fan of two-factor authentication, a procedure to make passwords more secure by sending a one-time code to your phone that you use alongside your password, you’ll be happy to know that passkeys make this unnecessary. One less hassle to log in!

When you make the move to passkeys, you’ll log in to your Google account and apps with the same PIN, face ID or thumbprint you used to unlock your device. If you’re using a computer without biometric security, the PIN you use to unlock it will also be used to log in to Gmail, YouTube, Drive and other Google platforms. As long as you remember how to unlock your device, you’ll have access to many other services and you won’t have to keep a log of unique passwords. If you use a third-party password manager, passkeys will still save you time and eliminate the go-between. You can set up passkeys on your phone and other mobile devices too. In many cases, passkeys get saved to your cloud account such as Google or Apple iCloud. That means you can use the passkey from multiple devices tied to that account.

Ready to set up passkeys? If you don’t see the prompt on your Google sign-in page, open Chrome or any Google app, click on your profile icon in the top-right corner and go to “Manage your Google Account.” Select “Security” from the menu on the left and locate “How you sign in to Google” and turn on passkeys.

For other websites and apps, check for a passkey option by going into your settings. You may find it in security, privacy or passwords depending on the site’s organization. You’ll go through a quick verification by unlocking your device.

The only downside to passkeys is limited to situations where multiple people use the same device such as in a cafe or library. You should not be doing anything sensitive on a public computer so a group or shared password should not threaten your security. Remember, don’t access personal accounts or use a payment method while on a public computer. But if you are at home and have a family computer, it’s an easy issue to solve. Multiple users of a home computer should each have a profile they use to access the internet. Passkeys can be set up within each user profile.

You won’t find a passkeys option everywhere, but the list of sites that have adopted them is growing. In addition to Google, Apple and Uber, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay and PayPal offer passkeys.

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 asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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