The term 'passkey' is often used interchangeably with 'password', 'passphrase', and 'PIN' (Personal Identification Number), but there are subtle differences among them, which we will explore in this comprehensive glossary entry.
Understanding the concept of a passkey and its role in cybersecurity is vital for anyone dealing with digital platforms, whether it's for personal use or professional purposes. This glossary entry aims to provide an in-depth understanding of passkeys, their types, their role in cybersecurity, and best practices for creating and managing them.
Definition of Passkey
A passkey, in the context of cybersecurity, is a secret known only to the user and the system, which allows the user to access a particular system, network, or service. It is a form of authentication that verifies the identity of a user before granting access to the requested resource.
Passkeys can be a string of characters, a sequence of words, or a series of numbers. They can also be a combination of these elements. The complexity and length of a passkey often determine its strength and resistance against potential cyber threats.
Passkey vs. Password
While the terms 'passkey' and 'password' are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between them. A password is typically a string of characters that a user must enter to gain access to a system or service. On the other hand, a passkey is often a series of numbers or a combination of characters and numbers used to unlock a device or decrypt encrypted data.
However, the distinction between these terms is not strictly enforced, and their usage often depends on the context and the specific security protocols of a system or service.
Types of Passkeys
Passkeys can be categorized into different types based on their composition and usage. Understanding these types can help users and system administrators implement appropriate security measures.
Here are the main types of passkeys:
Alphanumeric passkeys are a combination of letters (both uppercase and lowercase) and numbers. They are commonly used in various digital platforms due to their high level of security. The inclusion of both letters and numbers increases the complexity of the passkey, making it harder for potential attackers to guess or crack.
However, alphanumeric passkeys can be challenging to remember, especially if they are long and complex. Therefore, users are often advised to use a password manager to securely store their passkeys.
Numeric passkeys are composed entirely of numbers. They are commonly used in PINs for banking systems, mobile devices, and other secure services. Numeric passkeys are typically shorter than alphanumeric passkeys, usually consisting of 4 to 6 digits.
While numeric passkeys are easier to remember than alphanumeric ones, they offer a lower level of security due to their limited length and the absence of letters. Therefore, they are more susceptible to brute force attacks, where an attacker tries all possible combinations until the correct one is found.
Role of Passkeys in Cybersecurity
Passkeys play a crucial role in cybersecurity. They serve as the first line of defense against unauthorized access to systems, networks, and services. By requiring users to provide a valid passkey, systems can verify the identity of the user and prevent access by unauthorized individuals.
However, the effectiveness of passkeys in cybersecurity largely depends on their strength and the security practices of the users. Weak passkeys, such as '123456' or 'password', can be easily guessed or cracked by attackers, leading to security breaches. Therefore, users are encouraged to create strong, unique passkeys and to change them regularly.
Passkeys and Encryption
Passkeys are also used in encryption, a process that converts readable data into unreadable data to protect it from unauthorized access. The encrypted data can only be decrypted and made readable again with the correct passkey. This use of passkeys is particularly important in protecting sensitive data, such as financial information and personal identification information.
However, if the passkey used for encryption is lost or forgotten, the encrypted data may become permanently inaccessible. Therefore, it's crucial to securely store and manage encryption passkeys.
Best Practices for Creating and Managing Passkeys
Creating and managing passkeys in a secure manner is essential for maintaining cybersecurity. Here are some best practices to follow:
Create Strong Passkeys
Strong passkeys are hard to guess and resistant to cracking attempts. A strong passkey should be long (at least 12 characters), complex (including a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters), and unique (not used for other accounts or services).
It's also advisable to avoid using personal information, such as names, birthdays, or addresses, in passkeys, as this information can be easily obtained by attackers.
Change Passkeys Regularly
Changing passkeys regularly can help prevent unauthorized access, even if an old passkey has been compromised. However, it's important to avoid reusing old passkeys or making minor modifications to them, as this can make it easier for attackers to guess the new passkey.
It's generally recommended to change passkeys every 60 to 90 days, but the frequency may vary depending on the sensitivity of the data and the specific security policies of a system or service.
Use a Password Manager
Remembering multiple strong, unique passkeys can be challenging. A password manager can help by securely storing passkeys and automatically filling them in when needed. Most password managers also offer features like passkey generation and passkey change reminders, further enhancing security.
However, it's important to choose a reputable password manager with strong security features, and to protect the password manager with a strong, unique passkey.
Passkeys are an essential component of cybersecurity, providing a means of authenticating users and protecting systems, networks, and services from unauthorized access. By understanding the concept of passkeys, their types, and their role in cybersecurity, users and system administrators can better protect their digital assets and maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information.
However, the effectiveness of passkeys in cybersecurity depends on their strength and the security practices of the users. Therefore, it's important to follow best practices for creating and managing passkeys, such as creating strong, unique passkeys, changing them regularly, and using a password manager.
This post has been updated on 17-11-2023 by Sofie Meyer.
About the author
Sofie Meyer is a copywriter and phishing aficionado here at Moxso. She has a master´s degree in Danish and a great interest in cybercrime, which resulted in a master thesis project on phishing.
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