Google takes another step towards killing the password on Android

Google is continuing its quest to negate passwords, by adding fingerprint-based logins for some services in Google Chrome on Android.

Google has announced that, from today, users with Pixel phones can now use their fingerprint or a screen lock instead of the traditional written passwords. The feature, which is rolling out to all Android 7+ devices in the next few days, currently works only with Google’s Password Manager tool.

Google has built the new feature using the FIDO2 standards, W3C WebAuthn and FIDO CTAP and comes into play because the native fingerprint APIs on Android are now available on the web.

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“This means that a user only has to register their fingerprint with a service once and then the fingerprint will work for both the native application and the web service,” the company writes on its security blog.

The post goes on: “Google is using the FIDO2 capability on Android to register a platform-bound FIDO credential. We remember the credential for that specific Android device. Now, when the user visits a compatible service, such as passwords.google.com, we issue a WebAuthn “Get” call, passing in the credentialId that we got when creating the credential. The result is a valid FIDO2 signature.”

You can see the method in the .GIF image below:

As of right now Pixel users aren’t able to log into other Google properties such as Gmail, or third-party websites, but that appears to be the way the technology is heading. Using this method does not send your fingerprint to Google’s servers, the company promises, saying the biometric indicator remains securely on the device.

Google is moving more and more towards eliminating the password altogether, preferring alternate methods for authenticating users. Here’s Google’s instructions for giving this latest feature a try:

Prerequisites

  • Phone is running Android 7.0 (Nougat) or later
  • Your personal Google Account is added to your Android device
  • Valid screen lock is set up on your Android device

To try it

  • Open the Chrome app on your Android device
  • Navigate to https://passwords.google.com
  • Choose a site to view or manage a saved password
  • Follow the instructions to confirm that it’s you trying signing in

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