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Google brings support for access keys to Chrome so you can get rid of passwords

Passwords are a problem. They’re hard to remember, often easy to guess or figure out, and usually just a pain. Google is looking to help by adding secure, passwordless login to Chrome 108 thanks to recently added passkey support.

The security feature is available to Windows 11, macOS, and Android users, and a short beta testing period follows. Backed by companies like the FIDO Alliance, Microsoft, Apple and, of course, Google, access keys are a step up from the password managers many of us have become dependent on.

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Essentially a variant of 2FA, the passkeys rely on you having a second device, like your phone, to log into your computer. This means that instead of entering a password to access your PC, you will confirm your identity by scanning your fingerprint on your mobile phone. It is a simple idea and it serves as an alternative to other options such as USB security keys.

Writing about the new security feature in a blog post, Chrome Product Manager Ali Sarraf says:

You can use access keys to sign in to sites and apps that support them. Signing in with a passkey will require you to authenticate in the same way you would unlock a device.

With the latest version of Chrome, we’re enabling passcodes on Windows 11, macOS, and Android. On Android, your access keys will be securely synced through Google Password Manager or, in future versions of Android, any other password manager that supports access keys.

Once you have a passkey saved to your device, it can appear in autofill when you sign in to help keep you more secure.

On a desktop device, you can also choose to use a passkey from your nearby mobile device, and since passkeys are based on industry standards, you can use an Android or iOS device.

For those concerned about security, Google offers the following peace of mind:

A passkey does not leave your mobile device when you sign in this way. Only a securely generated code is exchanged with the site, so unlike a password, there is nothing to leak.

To give you control over your passwords, from Chrome M108 you can manage your passwords from Chrome on Windows and macOS.

Right now, it’s far from universal support for passwords, thanks to a number of compatibility issues, but it’s still too early days for password replacement.

Google explains:

For access keys to work, developers need to build access key support into their sites using the WebAuthn API. We’ve been working with others in the industry, notably Apple and Microsoft, members of the FIDO Alliance and W3C to drive strong authentication standards for years.

Our goal is to keep you as safe as possible on the web, and we’re excited about what the future of passcodes holds. Enabling the use of passcodes in Chrome is an important milestone, but our work is not done yet. It will take time for this technology to be widely adopted across all sites.

The company also notes that compatibility with iOS and Chrome OS is currently in development.

Image credit: fermate / depositphotos

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