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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

What are passkeys and how do they work? Google’s new login explained - The Washington Post

Google just changed how you log in to your account

"‘Passkeys’ are the default now — and that’s a good thing

An illustration with a key and locks.
(Illustration by Elena Lacey/The Washington Post)

Google is changing how you log into your account, but don’t worry — it’ll make your life easier.

This month, Google said it’s making “passkeys” the default log-in option for Google accounts. That means that instead of typing in a password, you’ll log into your Google account and Google apps with the same PIN, face ID or thumbprint you used to unlock your device.

In the ever-intensifying fight against digital criminals, passwords are a liability for people and organizations, cybersecurity experts say. Hackers frequently steal passwords in targeted attacks or sweeping data leaks, then break into online accounts to steal money or data. Consumers, meanwhile, struggle to make and remember strong passwords for what could be hundreds of online accounts.

The FIDO Alliance — an industry group that includes Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta — built passkeys in an effort to make online sign-ins simpler and safer, and the technology is showing up in more places. Google introduced passkey support in May, iOS 16 users can save passkeys to their Apple accounts, and the Meta-owned messaging app WhatsApp said Monday that it will support passkey log-ins for Android users. These decisions may signal a broader changeover on the horizon.

A passkey is an alphanumeric string that’s completely unique to you. It proves you are who you say you are, so apps and websites can let you into your account without providing a traditional password.

Passkeys rely on a type of cryptography called public key, where an algorithm comes together like puzzle pieces to unlock your account. When you log in, the app or website shares a “public key” algorithm with your device, which your device decodes using its unique “private key.”

To enable the passkey, all you have to do is unlock your device the normal way — with a PIN, face ID or fingerprint — when prompted. Then the app or site knows it’s you and lets you in.

In many cases, passkeys get saved to your cloud account such as Google or Apple iCloud. That means you can use the passkey from multiple devices tied to that account.

Google and other passkey supporters still accept passwords, so no worries if something goes sideways.

Help Desk tech reporter Tatum Hunter shares what you need to know about the passkey, a password alternative now supported by Google, ebay, Uber and others. (Video: Jonathan Baran/The Washington Post)

How do I set up passkeys?

Google should prompt you to set up your passkey at sign-in. Otherwise, open any Google app, click on your profile icon in the top-right corner and go to “Manage your Google Account.” From there, go to “Security” in the left-hand menu, scroll to “How you sign in to Google” and turn on passkeys.

Apps and websites that support passkeys should prompt you to set one up when you create a new account. This will involve unlocking your device to authenticate yourself. If you already have an account for that website or app, go to your account settings and look for options like privacy, security or passwords. You should see a way to enable passkeys.

Depending on what device you’re using, you can save passkeys to your iCloud keychain, Google Password Manager or Windows Hello — or a password manager app or browser extension.

Passkeys eliminate a few of the biggest risks and headaches that come with passwords.

First, no more remembering passwords. People and businesses spend a lot of time and money each year dealing with forgotten passwords, so passkeys save everyone some grief.

Passkeys also protect people and businesses against leaked credentials. When hackers compromise a company’s servers, they often use stolen username-password combinations to try to break into other sites, too. Since so many people get tired of remembering passwords and use the same ones for every account, those hackers are often successful. Passkeys drastically reduce this potential, since they are stored on the user’s device or personal cloud rather than a company’s servers.

Finally, no more hunting for that six-digit code in your text messages when you’re trying to log in. That additional safety check is called two-factor authentication, and it has helped make passwords safer. But passkeys make extra authentication unnecessary because they confirm the user’s identity from the jump.

Passkeys aren’t a great fit for environments where lots of people are sharing the same devices, like university libraries, said Steve Won, chief product officer at password manager company 1Password. If you share a device and don’t set up separate user profiles, other users may be able to unlock the passkey to access your Google account and Google apps. (To fix this, just set up separate user profiles that remain locked with a PIN, password or biometrics.)

Since passkeys are often tied to your devices, you may need to set up new passkeys if you lose your phone or laptop. Your accounts should be safe from interlopers, however, as long as they don’t know the PIN to unlock your device.

Which websites and apps support passkeys?

Building the technology to support passkeys takes time and money, so companies have been relatively slow to get on board, said Igor Kuznetsov, a researcher at cybersecurity company Kaspersky. We are still years away from a password-free life.

But the list of players that allow passkeys is steadily growing. In addition to Google, big names such as Uber, TikTok, Amazon, Microsoft, PayPal and Nintendo let you sign in with passkeys.

The more large companies support passkeys, the more pressure smaller ones will feel to switch over, Kuznetsov said. Eventually, you may have far fewer passwords to remember and type in, saving you time and brain space. (Until then, make sure you’re using long, distinct, complicated passwords and storing them in a password manager.)"

What are passkeys and how do they work? Google’s new login explained - The Washington Post

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Book Review: ‘Making It So,’ by Patrick Stewart - The New York Times

How Patrick Stewart Made the Jump to Warp Speed

"In his fond memoir “Making It So,” the actor traces the path from the working class to the Shakespearean stage to “Star Trek” superstardom.

A production photo from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” shows a bald man in a black and magenta uniform with a small rocketship-shaped insignia on his chest. He appears stern and is holding up the fingers of his right hand.
Patrick Stewart in the role that took his career to a whole new level: Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”CBS via Getty Images

By Ben Brantley

Ben Brantley is a former chief theater critic of The Times.

When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

MAKING IT SO: A Memoir, by Patrick Stewart

A ruddy blush of modesty colors “Making It So,” Patrick Stewart’s engaging self-portrait of life on the British stage and the starship U.S.S. Enterprise. Humility is not, of course, the trait that first comes to mind with big-name actors, for whom a strapping ego would seem to be a job requirement.

And with his booming voice and clenched-fist persona, Stewart has usually registered as a take-charge, cross-me-at-your-peril kind of guy. He became internationally famous portraying the autocratic space captain Jean-Luc Picard on the long-running sci-fi series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” a man given to terse dictums like the one from which this book takes its title: “Make it so.”

A veteran of some 60 productions with Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart has also brought the chill of brute will to some of the canon’s most commanding heroes, on Broadway and in the West End. Yet what gave these interpretations their distinctive force was Stewart’s gift for conveying the doubt within the bluster. The dichotomies always read with acute clarity, whether he’s the magisterial Prospero in “The Tempest” (we see him thinking simultaneously, “I revel in my power! Power has corrupted me!”); the ambitious Macbeth (“I must be king! My thoughts really scare me!”); or Cleopatra’s Antony (“I love her! She’s ruining my life!”).

Those grace notes of insecurity would seem to come naturally to Stewart, now 83, whose autobiography is suffused with an air of dumbfounded surprise at his own successes. This is partly because serious celebrity came late to him. He was well into his 40s when he began playing Picard and pushing 60 when he took on the other role for which he is best known, the mutant Professor X in the “X-Men” series of films. His major above-the-title theater performances came only after his late-blooming fame onscreen.

But Stewart also belongs to a breed that has become increasingly rare in his home country: the working-class youth who stumbles almost by chance into theater, then pays his dues for decades. Stewart grew up in northern England in the town of Mirfield (population 9,000). His father was an army sergeant who unhappily became “an itinerant laborer,” his mother, a textile mill worker. With his older brother, they shared a claustrophobically small house with no bathroom.

The book cover for “Making It So” shows a portrait of Patrick Stewart from the shoulders up, with his hands crossed under his chin.

Stewart’s father had been a charismatic leader in the military. (A fellow soldier said of him, “When he walked onto the parade ground, the birds in the trees stopped singing.”)  He never adjusted to civilian life and would beat his wife when he drank. Stewart writes that only through “decades of analysis” would he begin to grasp “the impact of the violence, fear, shame and guilt I experienced as a child,” and that elements of his father’s irrational rage would creep into his later portrayals of Shakespeare’s tyrants.

As a boy, Stewart says, his “outrageous dream was to be a long-distance lorry driver.” Yet there were those who saw something special in a lad who always looked older than his years. He was nonplused when a church secretary asked him, “Are you aware that you have an aura?” An English teacher, Cecil Dormand, one of the book’s dedicatees, introduced him to Shakespeare and urged his pupil to participate in local theater programs. The boy discovered that being onstage was the place that he felt safest.

It helped that Stewart grew up in an age when theater was considered a part of everyday cultural life, even in tiny Mirfield, which had “at least seven active drama societies,” and that the country supported a wide and fecund network of repertory companies. When Stewart was completing his school years at 15, he was asked by Dormand if he had thought of becoming an actor. “That job is not for people like me,” Stewart responded. 

But Dormand pointed out that young men with economic backgrounds like Stewart’s, such as Albert Finney and Richard Harris, were generating a new excitement in the British theater. After brief stints as a local newspaper reporter and a furniture salesman, Stewart was accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theater School.

And so began an apprenticeship in repertory that led him to a place at the Stratford-based Royal Shakespeare Company in his mid-20s. The big, juicy roles were elusive, however, and Stewart lingers over the rejections like someone massaging a toothache with his tongue. He recalls more than once leaving the theater after performing a small role in “Hamlet,” starring a much-acclaimed David Warner, and being asked, “Are you anybody?”

By the current metrics of fame, it took Stewart two more decades to become “anybody,” when he was unexpectedly tapped for the role of Picard.

Trekkies should know that this pivotal moment occurs about 300 pages into “Making It So.” Stewart is generous with insiderly details about his experience on “Star Trek” (like his insisting on more comfortable spacesuits). But the book starts to feel more like a standard showbiz biography from this point — so many credits, so many life changes, so little time — as growing fame takes its toll on the personal life of Stewart, who would marry three times.

As a lover of theater lore, I was happiest learning about Stewart’s stage-centered life, even when he wasn’t center stage. He offers fascinating glimpses into the unorthodox working methods of great classic actors like John Wood and Ian Holm (who had a breakdown while performing “The Iceman Cometh”) and the directors Peter Brook, Trevor Nunn and Peter Hall.

I would love to have read more about Stewart’s enduring personal and professional relationship with Ian McKellen, with whom he appeared memorably in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” paired in rotation on Broadway with Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” in 2013. It was McKellen who thrillingly advised Stewart, when he was playing Macbeth, that the key to the character can be found in the conjunction “and” in the soliloquy that begins, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. …” 

Still, I’m not about to begrudge Stewart his blissed-out descriptions of the confidence-stoking benefits of the feast of popular success after years of famine. When it was decided that his signature television character would be resurrected for a new series, “Star Trek: Picard,” Stewart announced its arrival at a 2018 Trekkie convention in Las Vegas.

He recalls basking in the crowd’s thunderous response with a refreshing lack of ambivalence: “No more sheepishness, no more embarrassment — I like being liked.” 

MAKING IT SO: A Memoir | By Patrick Stewart | Illustrated | 480 pp. | Gallery Books | $35"

Book Review: ‘Making It So,’ by Patrick Stewart - The New York Times