The web is a fascinating and wonderful place. At the same time, it can be scary and dangerous, at least when it comes to your personal information.
Every time you go online, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of threats to your privacy and personal information. There are apps that scoop up and monetize your data by selling it to the highest bidder. There are websites that track you and do the same. Even some of the extensions you install in your browser are spying on you.
And, of course, there are the hackers who would love nothing more than to get access to your bank or PayPal account. While we don't usually think about it, the reality is that the thing that poses the biggest risk to your security online isn't the website tracking you, or even the hackers. The biggest risk is something almost everyone uses every day: the password.
Passwords are subject to phishing attacks, where someone impersonates a legitimate site or request to get you to give up your password. They're also increasingly found on the black market as a result of data breaches.
But the biggest problem with the password is far more low-tech. The reason your passwords are the weakest link in protecting your privacy is that, if you're like most people, you're just really bad at remembering passwords. That's why people tend to reuse them over and over. Of course, that means that if someone gets access to the password to one of your accounts, they'll likely be able to access many, if not all, of them.
Apple and Google are trying really hard to fix that. That's a big deal considering that, collectively, the pair make the operating systems that power almost every smartphone sold around the world, and represent the most important browsers--Chrome on desktop and Safari on mobile. That means that the two are in unique positions to actually solve this problem.
Google's effort centers on making it easier for users to manage passwords using its Chrome browser, the most popular way people navigate the web. Not only will Chrome notify you if a password you're using has been potentially compromised, but it will also help you fix it with just a single tap.
That's a big improvement over the way you've had to change passwords until now. Usually, it involves signing into an account, navigating to wherever you go to change your password and then updating the new password in any tools you're using to store them.
Google's solution involves handling all of those steps for you. When Chrome detects a bad password, it will show you a "Change password" button. Then, if you tap the button, Chrome will "go through the entire process of changing your password," according to a blog post from Google.
Apple, on the other hand, is trying to kill the password altogether. In what might be the most futuristic effort, Apple introduced a feature that will allow you to use passkeys instead of passwords to secure your accounts. Passkeys are created and stored within your iCloud Keychain, and use Face ID to authenticate your identity, instead of requiring you to enter a password.
The idea is that your iPhone is used as a physical authentication device, and Face ID confirms that you are, in fact, the person attempting to access a website or account. Since passkeys are stored within your iCloud Keychain, they automatically sync between your devices.
Not only does this eliminate the opportunity for a password to be compromised, it also eliminates the need to manage different passwords for every site--your device handles that on its own.
Obviously, the effort requires that websites and apps adopt the technology, which is why Apple is talking about it at its developer conference--it needs developers to get onboard. As a result, it's something that will take some time, but it's encouraging that the two companies that can actually solve this problem are actually trying to do exactly that.