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Feb 17 2015

Towards Resolving the Password Problem: Microsoft Adds FIDO Support to Windows 10

Creating secure passwords and managing them in an adequate fashion is among the most cumbersome and error-prone tasks computer users are facing today. That's why Microsoft decided to end the ordeal – and add a new authentication solution to its upcoming desktop OS instead.

The announcement was made at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection Summit last Friday, an event that brought together various industry leaders (minus Google, Facebook, and Yahoo) with top aides from the Obama administration and the President himself. One of the hot topics on the agenda was multi-factor authentication, and that's why Microsoft's Scott Charney, Corporate VP of Trustworthy Computing, and Dustin Ingalls, Group Program Manager Windows Security & Identity, announced that as of the latest release of its technical preview, Windows 10 supports the so-called FIDO authentication protocols.

FIDO stands for Fast IDentity Online, a concerted industry effort to promote open, platform-independent and reliable standards for password-less authentication. Its supporters – including Alibaba, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, PayPal, Visa, and others – have formed the FIDO Alliance, a quasi-standardization body that published its first set of specifications at the end of 2014 and is now working on their successors. According to the explanation given by Ingalls on the official Windows blog, these specifications laid the foundation for a "global ecosystem" of authentication solutions from different vendors that involve biometrics, the use of OTP generators (USB keys), and public key cryptography. Microsoft's implementation of FIDO in the Windows 10 Technical Preview is based on the firm's latest contributions to the upcoming FIDO 2.0 framework, integrates with Windows 10 sign-in as well as Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), and offers access to major SaaS services such as Office 365 Exchange Online, Salesforce, and Citrix. The key benefit for corporate end users is that they can use their Windows device to log into Microsoft's own and other Azure-AD-supported SaaS services without ever having to type in a password, and switch seamlessly between the platforms. Future editions of Windows 10 will include Active Directory integration for on-premise scenarios and Microsoft Account integration for consumer services such as, OneDrive, and more.


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