Apple, Microsoft, and Google want you to go passwordless. Here’s what that means

·2-min read

We live in a world of passwords. From Spotify (SPOT) to Gmail to TikTok to your computer itself, passwords are everywhere. And they’re awful.

They need to have a certain amount of characters, contain numbers and letters and special symbols, and ideally shouldn’t match your passwords for other sites. And if you follow all of the right cybersecurity rules, you’re also changing your password every few months.

Oh, and then there’s multi-factor authentication — you know, those apps that send you an alert or text after you sign into account to make sure you really are who you say you are.

And even if you follow all of these steps to stay safe online, your password can still ultimately be hacked, exposing your personal accounts to hackers and cybercriminals.

But thankfully, a solution to the password problem will soon let you log into your app and browser-based services without a password. Yes, you read that right; you’ll be able to kill off a chunk of your passwords for good.

This Monday, June 19, 2017, photo shows fingers on laptop keyboard in North Andover, Mass. The Equifax breach not only exposed sensitive personal information of 143 million Americans, but it also underscored the huge and largely unaddressed vulnerabilities that make widespread identity theft possible. Experts have warned for years that the widespread use of Social Security numbers, lax corporate security and even looser individual password practices could lead to an identity-theft apocalypse. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Apple, Google, and Microsoft are working to make your personal accounts more secure. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The technology comes via the FIDO (fast identity online) Alliance, and allows you to use your phone rather than a password to authenticate who you are. Earlier this month, Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), and Apple (AAPL) said they’d soon adopt the standard to work across apps and websites, meaning you’ll eventually be able to log into a website in Chrome from your Windows PC using your iPhone.

The idea is for you to register your identity via your smartphone using its facial recognition, fingerprint ID, or your passcode. Once you’ve stored your identity on your phone, it stays there.

From then on you’ll be able to log into websites and apps that use FIDO’s standard by entering your username and then using your phone to tell the app or site that you’re you.

The whole thing might sound a little out there, but some companies already offer passwordless sign-in options. In fact, I use a similar feature with my Microsoft account, which requires me to enter my username and then authenticate my identity via the company’s own Authenticator app.

The goal with the FIDO Alliance’s technology, though, is to eliminate the need for disparate authenticator apps, and instead let you log into apps and websites using just your phone’s secure lock.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft haven’t offered any specifics on when they’ll begin offering the technology, but hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the feature to land.

Then we might finally be able to start saying “goodbye” to passwords for good.

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