Apple Officially Joins FIDO Alliance, Here’s Why That’s a Big Deal

iPhone Password and Two Factor Authentication FIDO Alliance Credit: Cristian Dina / Shutterstock
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Apple has officially joined the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance, an industry coalition whose end goal is to reduce your reliance on passwords.

Whether or not you use a password manager or create strong, unique passwords, the kind of authentication systems that the FIDO alliance develops and maintains adds an additional and much more robust layer of security to your online accounts.

In other words, this is a big deal. Here’s why.

What Is FIDO Authentication?

The FIDO Alliance helps to develop and popularize various authentication systems, including FIDO2. Essentially, the goal is to use these systems are either first or second factors in authentication.

First factors are typically your passwords, which a FIDO2 device could replace. The second factor is usually those one-time passcodes that you need to type in. To do away with those, the FIDO alliance helps develop Universal 2nd Factor standards.

One of the most common implementations of this is the physical security key. Essentially, you carry around a small USB drive-like device that you plug in or hold near your iPhone. When you do, it authenticates your login so you don’t have to receive or type any one-time passcodes.

Apple has been slowly adopting U2F and FIDO2 features into its operating systems. Back in iOS 13.3, the company introduced physical security key support to Safari. Now, it seems, Apple’s entry into the FIDO alliance could open the door for even tighter integration.

Why This Matters to You

If you use the internet, there’s a good chance that you have at least a few passwords. You probably have more. That’s a problem, since passwords are terrible.

Not only are passwords inconvenient to type in and remember, but many users default to using the same password across multiple services. That’s a bad practice as it makes all of your accounts vulnerable.

Two-factor authentication systems can help secure password-locked accounts, but they aren’t perfect. SMS one-time passcodes can be intercepted by focused hackers, while Apple’s two-factor authentication only works on Apple devices.

Through a mixture of cross-platform trusted devices and physical security keys, the FIDO alliance wants to eventually shore up the defenses of online accounts.

The result would be accounts that are much harder to hack, as well as of the benefits of not having to create, store and remember strong passwords.

With Apple’s recent entry into the alliance, there’s little doubt that its methods could be better integrated into Apple products. And Apple’s resources and expertise could speed adoption of FIDO2 and Universal Second Factor (U2F).

Even with data breaches, phishing campaigns and other digital risks on the rise, the use of a good password manager and FIDO2 services across all of your accounts could help you avoid the dangers of digital attacks.

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