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Web standard brings password-free sign-ins to virtually any site

Use your fingerprint reader or camera in a wide variety of browsers.
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Sitade via Getty Images

Tech companies have been trying to do away with web passwords for years, but now it looks like they've reached a key milestone. The FIDO Alliance and W3C have launched a Web Authentication standard that makes it easier to offer truly unique encryption credentials for each site. That, in turn, lets you access virtually any online service in a PC browser through password-free FIDO Authentication, not just specific services. You can continue to use familiar methods like fingerprint readers, cameras and USB keys, and it can serve both in place of and in addition to passwords.

It's about more than convenience. That same uniqueness reduces the chances that a password compromised on one site can be used on another -- intruders shouldn't have free rein with your accounts even if they punch through a site's defenses.

The functionality is useful right now in Mozilla's Firefox browser, and should come to both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge in the "next few months." Opera has also publicly committed to the technology (there's no mention of Apple bringing it to Safari). No, you can't immediately forego all your passwords, but this could let you depend on biometric logins much more consistently than you have in the past.

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