Google has finally brought Web Authentication (WebAuthn) passwordless authentication to Chrome OS to allow users to sign in to websites with a PIN or fingerprint used to unlock a Chromebook.
WebAuthn allows people to register and authenticate on websites or apps using an "authenticator" – such as a fingerprint or PIN – instead of a password. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) made WebAuthn an official web standard in 2019.
Of course, to take advantage of the Chrome OS version 88 update, people need to have a Chromebook with a fingerprint reader. But the feature also supports a device PIN, which is still easier to remember than passwords for every website.
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"Websites that support WebAuthn will let you use your Chromebook PIN or fingerprint ID – if your Chromebook has a fingerprint reader – instead of the password you've set for the website," says Alexander Kuscher, director of Chrome OS.
Additionally, people who use Google's two-step verification to sign in to a Google account don't need to use a security key or phone to authenticate since the Chromebook PIN or fingerprint ID can be used as the second factor.
Sites that support WebAuthn include Google, Dropbox, GitHub, Okta, Twitter and Microsoft. Google last year rolled out an update so people with iPhones could use WebAuthn with more types of security keys as the second factor to sign into a Google account.
As an added bonus, Google has rolled out a feature with Chrome OS 88 that lets students and workers personalize the lockscreen with photos from Google Photos or art gallery images. Chrome OS also lets users check the weather and music playing, as well as control pause, skip and play in a locked state.
WebAuthn on Chrome OS devices is likely to be a welcome addition for students who use Chromebooks for remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on. These days, the demand for laptops around the clock has forced many parents to buy a cheap laptop, and Chromebooks are a popular option compared to more expensive Windows laptops and macOS laptops.
Acer in January unveiled the Chromebook Spin 514 convertible laptop with a 14-inch full HD touchscreen, protected by Gorilla Glass, and powered by AMD's new Ryzen 3000 C-Series mobile processors.
At the higher end, Samsung trimmed some features to bring down the cost of its 2-in-1 Galaxy Chromebook. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 features a 13.3-inch QLED display with 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and comes with an Intel 10th-gen Core i3-10110U or Celeron 5205U processors. The previous model featured a 4K AMOLED display and an Intel Core i5 processor.