New standard brings stronger authentication to browsers

Firefox. Pixabay

Since WebAuthn uses unique encrypted credentials for each site, it reduces the chances of phishing and hacks as the same password can not be used on multiple sites.

WebAuthn is a specification to allow browsers to expose hardware authentication devices-USB, Bluetooth, or NFC-to sites on the Web.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and FIDO Alliance today announced that a new spec, WebAuthn ("Web Authentication") had been promoted to the Candidate Recommendation stage, the penultimate stage in the Web standards process. Several top companies, including the makers of Chrome, Edge, and Firefox have promised to support this new Web Authentication API that offers better protection against phishing.

Newer versions of the old FIDO 2.0 Web API is what now allows users to log into Google, Facebook, Dropbox, GitHub, and more using secret tokens stored on YubiKey USB thumb drives (aka hardware security keys).

The WebAuthn specifications are now available for developers, and the W3C, which is the primary worldwide standards organization for the web, has advanced the standard to "Candidate Recommendation" status.

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Any border poll is bound to heighten tensions in Northern Ireland and it appears Brexit has brought such a prospect a step closer. He added: "The Good Friday Agreement, although we didn't intend it at the time, I think that now can replace that relationship".

"Websites do need to do more than just update the JavaScript on their login pages", he added. That means the specifications have been thoroughly reviewed and deemed to meet the W3C's technical requirements, and are now ready to be implemented so that the standards body can collect further data before it officially endorses the standard.

With WebAuthn-enabled browsers and sites, users can sign in using both integrated biometric hardware (such as the fingerprint and facial-recognition systems that are widely deployed) and external authentication systems such as the popular YubiKey USB hardware.

Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera have all committed to supporting the WebAuthn standard in their flagship browsers. FIDO says that it will soon issue certifications for server and clients that adhere to these specifications, and that it's also launched a new certification program called "Universal Server" for servers that can work with all kinds of FIDO authentication standards including WebAuthn.

"We are pleased to have Nok Nok's support as a founding member of the FIDO Alliance, a valued contributor to the latest FIDO2 Web Authentication standard and for their participation in the interoperability testing conducted last month", said Brett McDowell Executive Director, FIDO Alliance.

The new API will enable users to log into web apps and websites using other authentication methods besides passwords, the system used by all websites today.


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