Apple is looking to accelerate the end of passwords with an expanded iCloud Keychain feature that will encourage passwordless authentication on Mac and iOS devices. Passkeys in iCloud Keychain will operate in much the same way as passwords do on the same platform, but will replace those passwords with biometrics via Face and Touch ID.
The Passkeys are based on the WebAuthn protocol, which means that they will be generated and stored locally on an individual’s device to make sure that any biometric information remains private. However, the Passkeys can be synchronized across all of the devices associated with a particular Apple ID, just as passwords are synchronized under the current system.
Apple announced the new feature during the “Move Beyond Passwords” developer session at the WWDC conference. It will eventually make its debut as part of iOS 15 and macOS Monterey. From there, Apple customers will be able to use Face or Touch ID instead of a password to sign up for any service that supports the solution.
“Because it’s just a single tap to sign in, it’s simultaneously easier, faster and more secure than almost all common forms of authentication today,” said Apple authentication engineer Garrett Davidson.
The news is in keeping with Apple’s ongoing efforts to promote passwordless authentication technology in the past few years. The company’s Safari web browser has offered WebAuthn support since 2019, and Apple gave people the ability to use Face and Touch ID in the browser with the release of Safari 14 last June. WebAuthn itself is a component of the FIDO2 authentication protocol, and exists as an official web standard that allows people to use biometric factors and physical security keys to log into various online applications.
Apple became an official member of the FIDO Alliance in February of 2020. The tech giant now acts as a board-level member of the organization.