Passwords of the future

Most people are terrible at thinking up and remembering passwords. Enter passkeys.

01 March 2024

Alistair Fairweather

In 1960, Fernando Corbató, a computer scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposed an ancient solution to a novel problem. Computers were rare in 1960 and were usually shared between hundreds of users. How could a user securely store data on a shared computer? Corbató's answer was as simple as it was elegant: passwords. This millennia-old mechanism had been used by everyone from soldiers on guard to doormen at thieves' guilds to neatly discern friend from foe. Corbató's solution was adopted and, more than 60 years later, it’s still the standard method for proving our identities online.

Passwords are a bit like that old joke about democracy: they're the worst way to secure something online, apart from all the other methods. That is starting to change. Over the next three to five years, a new method for securing our online accounts, called "passkeys", will start to take over.

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