By Brett McDowell, Executive Director, FIDO Alliance
Earlier today, Intel, Lenovo, PayPal and Synaptics, all FIDO Alliance board members, announced that they are collaborating to use FIDO standards to web-enable biometric authentication on the desktop. The first example of this new device capability is featured in the recently announced Lenovo Yoga 910, which incorporates Intel technology based on FIDO standards and FIDO Certified fingerprint sensors from Synaptics to allow service providers like PayPal to roll out passwordless FIDO authentication to desktop users for the first time. Once the user with one of these laptops is registered with a FIDO-compliant website, they no longer need to enter a password to be authenticated to that site. They simply touch the built-in sensor and are instantly logged in with a true multi-factor (aka “strong”) authentication.
Partnerships like this illustrate how FIDO authentication delivers on its promise to empower solutions to provide both a better user experience (single gesture vs. typing passwords or one-time passcodes) and better security (proof of possession of the private key protected by hardware-level TPM security) in an interoperable ecosystem that works with any FIDO compliant website, from any FIDO compliant device, regardless of form factor or modality of authenticator.
Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger FIDO story to really understand the significance of this announcement. If you read my recent editorial for Fortune Magazine, then you know that I believe the world has a password crisis that can only be solved with an alternative authentication capability that is more user friendly, more secure, and ubiquitously interoperable across all internet-enabled devices and applications. Today’s announcement is yet another signal to the market that FIDO authentication standards – developed by a global alliance of over 250 organizations – provides exactly the foundation we need to move beyond the password crisis.
FIDO authentication is already well established across the mobile ecosystem – there are now more than a billion Android and iOS devices in the market that service providers can use to deploy FIDO-enabled experiences to their customers. We’re seeing this grow every day. But the password problem is not limited to mobile devices; every single internet-connected device needs to have the ability to upgrade to simpler, stronger FIDO authentication. By FIDO-enabling this new line of notebooks with biometric authentication capabilities, the market is another step closer to making “FIDO everywhere” a reality.
The announcement from Intel, Lenovo, PayPal and Synaptics is just the start of the FIDO ecosystem on desktops. The W3C is working to make FIDO web APIs a formal web standard, which I expect will bring FIDO authentication to web browsers across all platforms. Microsoft has already made many statements about its strong commitment to implement the upcoming standard for its end-to-end strong authentication platform, Windows Hello. Mozilla and Google have also voiced their support, with Google having already FIDO-enabled Chrome with support for second factor authentication use cases through their Security Key program.
These are all critical steps in the FIDO Alliance’s journey that will lead us to the ultimate destination: universal stronger, simpler FIDO authentication.