Ready for a Passwordless Future with Passkeys?

The Passwordless Future with Passkeys

Are you ready for the passwordless future with passkeys? It’s already here. Or near. Well, it’s a good goal for all of us.

Passwords are annoying. And many times they don’t do enough to prevent data breaches.

If you’ve ever heard our founder Alan talk for a while you’re guaranteed to hear him say:

Security and usability are fundamentally at odds.

Alan Youngblood

This doesn’t have to be the case though. It is super easy to use Passkeys, but don’t take my word for it:

Login process with Passkeys on Macbook Pro

And it’s even more secure to use Passwordless systems.

By using the security capabilities of your devices like Touch ID and Face ID, passkeys are way more secure and are easier to use than both passwords and all current 2-factor authentication methods.

Learn more or try for yourself at

The Security Holy Grail

Why can’t we have both security and usability? 

Why not both?

Typically this is a natural trade-off. Most security measures make your everday work and life a little bit more difficult while also making it much more difficult for hackers. So in practice it’s good security policy to take reasonable efforts that you know will be a slight pain to you and a major pain to hackers making them think twice.

Can’t we have both though? Every so often there is a truly different way that makes that possible!

That’s where Passkeys and passwordless systems come in. There’s a lot to say about this but the bottom line is simple: there are now computer systems that do not use passwords and are actually more secure than the systems that do.

Passwordless Future with Passkeys is More Secure

Do not mistake any of this to say we need to get rid of passwords. We’ll come back to this later but in some ways we may always have passwords for certain uses even in the passwordless future.

This also doesn’t mean wide open access or less secure systems. But how? In InfoSec we refer to authentication in a few ways. Authentication verifies a person or user of a system to make sure they are who they say they are.

Authentication can be:

  • Something you know. For example: a password.
  • Something you have. For example: a hardware token or smart badge/card.
  • Something you are. For example: fingerprint scanning, Face ID, or other biometric data.

Two factor or multi factor authentication (MFA) is just a combo of more than one of those methods. More layers of security tends to give a more secure system.

But many passwordless systems actually combine several factors into one more simple action. For example, using Passkeys combine Something you have: your mobile smartphone and something you are: the phone’s biometric touch or face id. So instead of fumbling around with a 6 digit code or remembering a password that’s hard for you to remember and easy for a computer to guess, you already have MFA built-in with one simple step.

Passwords are the weakest link in security. Think about it: they are shared at some point in the login transaction with the server. It’s something you know but that doesn’t mean someone else might know it too. I can tell you about “MySUPERsecretPasswd456!” and you you already know that one. Pro-tip: we never use that password and we recommend you never use it either. With something like passkeys, the hardware of your smartphone is leveraged and authenticates to the server basically saying you are who you claim to be and everything’s fine to let you in.

I’m just going to assume for a minute that you do a good job managing your passwords and use significantly complex, unique ones on all your accounts. Even if that were true for everyone, there’s a lot of data that gets exposed when you are a part of a service, let’s just say Facebook because so many people are there. Let’s say someone on Facebook signs up with a password “Password123.” This laughably easy password then gives hackers a potential in to the entire system. While it may not expose everyone or everything, at minimum, it provides this hacker with the next step and clues to hack other data and people. 

I'm in!

Why We Can Trust the Security of Passwordless Passkeys

What’s wilder about these systems is that they aren’t entirely new. That’s part of the reason we can trust them.

These are all built on well established protocols and technologies. Much of the magic of public/private key cryptography has been around in regular use for decades, since the 1970’s. Passwords we use now are still vulnerable because common wording or being knowable by people other than the authorized users.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

The biggest challenge is that even if there’s a better way, it requires change from a lot of people. Many of us are not ready for a passwordless future with passkeys if it involves doing things differently.

There’s two crucial requirements to be able to use Passwordless systems:

  • Everyone using them has to have either an up to date smartphone, computer, or hardware key token.
  • Every account and system software needs to have this feature integrated into them and users need to learn how to use it.

Easier said than done.

I don’t wanna change I’ll rise above it But it’s so damn hard to make that change

Adam Granduciel, song Change performed by The War on Drugs

Change isn’t always easy. I get it. Even when we’re in a bad place sometimes we want to cling to the “devil we know.” Why risk it doing things differently?

Plus this requires change from a lot of people, namely those we lack any control or influence over. As a company’s leader it would be easy enough to make it corporate policy to assure all employees make a change that helps everyone. But there’s still the other end of these systems, the platform holders that you can make requests to but ultimately don’t have to do anything. And there’s the bit about having updated computing devices. While this is good practice in general, it doesn’t mean we all do it. And there’s the training, why learn a new thing if what we all did a few years ago seems perfectly fine to get the job done?

Passwordless Future Goals with Passkeys

For all these reasons we recommend Passwordless systems as a great goal. We ourselves are working toward implementing and using these systems incrementally in our business and personal lives where possible. But it has to be opt-in.

You can lead an animal to water but you cannot make them drink.

Old English proverb attributed first to John Heywood

Having the personal buy-in from each person who will use the system means they are showing up ready to learn something new and try it for its merits.

The Password is dead! Long live the Password!

General Hux isn't ready for the passwordless future with passkeys. The password is dead! Long live the password!
The password is DEAD! Long live the Password!

You didn’t really think we’d be giving up the passwords everywhere so soon did you?

Because it’s simply not practical to expect everyone to give up their current systems we suggest you phase in the Passwordless tech where you can. Meanwhile, passwords are still the best standard way to secure everything from your WiFi connected toaster to databases with trade secrets.

So we’ll end here by pointing you back to advice that’s still great for using BitWarden as your password manager for all the systems that aren’t ready for that change yet. If you don’t feel like you can remember your master password or secure it in a safe place like a lockbox, you should consider using a different trusted system like 1Password in the video below.

And if you are already using LastPass, you need to use a different system as fast as you can make the switch. While we used LastPass previously but a number of reports of breaches and a general negligence of security practices at their organization mean that moving to a better system is the best thing you can do for your security right now.

Josh at All Things Secured has you covered on a step by step guide to make the switch from LastPass to 1Password.

Make the switch from LastPass now. Thank us later. We will thank you too because helping everyone helps everyone.

Ready to ditch those pesky passwords for something more secure? Get in touch and see how we can help your organization make the transition!

Things fall apart, are you ready with a backup and repair plan?

New Motherboard

I’ve never been a fan of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, but that doesn’t make the title any less true. Are you ready with a backup and repair plan?

This is especially true when it comes to the technology we count on in our daily lives and at work. Anyone worth their salt in the IT field know it’s not a matter of “if” but when will things break. We can help you prepare to handle it with no sweat. The sooner we work out a backup and repair plan for you the better your options will be and the less painful the repair and upgrade process will be.

To prove that I’m not trying to scare you here I’ll share my own stories from recent weeks:

The System’s Down

In my personal life I enjoy playing video games either solo or with friends. Two nights a week are scheduled for online gaming with my friends, so a Thursday evening rolled around and I started up my desktop gaming PC that I built but it didn’t start up. Yikes! Gratefully, I own other platforms like Valve’s Steam Deck, a Nintendo Switch, and a PS5 that we were able to play a different game on together. But all this came about a month after one of my friends, Lee, had his gaming PC die on him in much the same fashion.

Don’t get it twisted, I know this is a first world problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

So over the weekend after that I began troubleshooting my PC and it allowed me to clean up and dust inside. The problem was that it was having trouble POST’ing (Power On Self Test). The light would come on and the system fan would spin and then it would go completely off before it even output the BIOS or Windows 10.

Cleaning the old PC motherboard is a part of any good backup and repair plan and it extends the life of components already in use.

So I went through testing parts and narrowing down what was and what was not working inside. The Power Supply can often be an issue when you see these symptoms, so I used the jumper test to confirm that it was still working. RAM is also another possible cause of the problem, so I tried testing each module one by one and those seemed to work. There were some issues with the way I re-seated them, but ultimately I was able to get one to work and the PC back online. Then I tried all of them and got the whole PC to boot up.

The Problem that Almost Wasn’t

“We’re back in business!” I thought with only a little bit of time working on it and no new parts needed. So I went on about using it some for a while and made sure that the data backup that was set to run finished then shut it down after the weekend. If you are worried about your PC, contact us and ask about a backup and repair plan that works for you! No problem feels that bad when you’re confident in your backup solutions.

When it Rains it Pours

Meanwhile I got the itch to play a retro game on PlayStation 2, so I plugged mine in and found that the DVD-ROM drive was not working there and while it would start up it made some clicking sounds and acted like there was no game disc in it. Again, not that big of a deal, but a bit discouraging nonetheless.

Then the next week I had another online gaming night and went to turn on my PC to play and the same problem happened. Except this time I was unable to get it to start no matter what I did. Given the working Power Supply Unit (PSU) and the working RAM, the situation must be that the motherboard was no longer working. Rest in pieces, old gaming PC.

We Can Rebuild Him. We Have the Technology.

But from those pieces I was able to reuse a lot of the PC itself and put a decent but not exorbitant bit of money to repairing the PC. The final price tag was just over $500 and the repairs came with some great upgrades. I took my time to deliberate and plan what to get, and what I could keep.

The components that needed replacement were the motherboard, CPU (with cooler), and RAM. All other components I tested and worked so I kept them: the case, the HDD’s (Hard Disk Drives) and SSD’s (Solid State Drives), the Graphics Card, the monitors, keyboard, mouse, and DVD-RW drive.

The Best Backup Plan is Knowing Who to Ask

My gaming buddies were also a big help in asking about certain part of the upgrade plan considering Lee and another friend Nic had both done similar upgrades and repairs. I wanted to switch to an AMD processor instead of using Intel this time around and there are differences. Both brands are good, but I wanted AMD and needed to know about their current line the Ryzen series.

Additionally, manufacturers tend to be confusing about RAM and it’s difficult to be sure that you get modules that actually work with your motherboard. Many list OC or “Overclocked” speeds, likely because it sounds faster, but if you don’t go by the JEDEC standard it may not work in your system. Nic helped me remember to triple-check for RAM compatibility which is a great practice for us all to have.

Finally, there are some motherboards for AMD CPU’s that either are not compatible with certain processors or some that require a firmware update out of the box before you can use them. I wanted one that would work as soon as I assembled it and ended up finding a good option for a bit more money from MSI. It also has built-in WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5, two features that I use and appreciate having.

Down Goes the Laptop

One of the days while I was planning the repair and upgrade, I came home from a long appointment and decided to log in to my laptop just to see where my emails stood and catch up on other work. Much to my chagrin, my laptop didn’t boot up. If you work with me a while you’ll hear me repeat the British WWII era slogan: Keep calm and carry on. Part of what keeps me calm throughout this process on my own devices is knowing I have a backup and repair plan for everything I use.

My laptop did POST so there’s a start there. But it complained about the fans not working with a Dell diagnostic program that loaded automatically. While I had been dusting and cleaning my desktop, I also did my laptop and was worried I bumped something inside. So I opened up the case again and re-seated some of the plugs like the power and the fans. Then I restarted it and ran the automatic diagnostics.

It cleared the tests and worked this time. Whew! Following that I booted to Windows 11, and ran Dell’s SupportAssist, and updated any drivers in the system. I usually use Linux in a dual boot, but the system hardware updates work better on Windows with Dell.

Live in your world, play in ours! PS2 Repairs

With one bullet dodged, I got a bit more confidence and looked up repair and replacement options for my PlayStation 2. Being an older retro game console there’s not as many clear backup and repair plans out there. It’s a bit costly to get a replacement part so I decided to try a repair.

Naturally I voided the already expired warranty to get inside the case of the device and begin to repair it. I started cleaning and dusting, though it wasn’t too bad overall. Well that didn’t fix it. It wasn’t until later that I was able to find a gear that is used to calibrate the disc spinning mechanism and by fine tuning that, the discs and games ran again.

On disc-media, the discs themselves are the backup. Thanks YouTube tutorials for helping know how to plan repairs on the PS2! Oh there you are Zone of the Enders The 2nd Runner, now for a second chance…

It’s Always Something…

Once the parts came in for my desktop PC I began to repair it. There was a surprise while I was installing the new motherboard: the power connectors. The new one has an extra plug for a 4-pin ATX power cable in addition to the ones it requires. Thankfully online forums clarified that you only need those to overclock your PC. I typically don’t, so I went ahead and powered it on.

The power came on this time, so we’re definitely getting somewhere. But there wasn’t anything on the screen at first. The new system requires using a discrete graphics card. So I made sure everything was wired up with mine and plugged in the main monitor. I was able to determine the manufacturers’ hotkey to boot into BIOS and now we’re really cooking.

Making progress in BIOS

After that I configured what I thought needed to happen and restarted the PC. But nothing happened. Oops! In BIOS I reconfigured the boot settings to Legacy mode, since my previous build was installed on rather old hardware.

Okay now we’re really getting there, Windows 10 booted up and automatically updated to run with the new parts.

The backup was a good precaution when Windows automagically setup most things after the repair, which was nice.
After the backup and repairs: The RGB lighting is kind of cool even if I never asked for it.

Who Broke the Internet this time?

As if that wasn’t enough, when coming home from a busy day out I found that my Internet was down. And it just so happens another hobby of mine, fantasy football had two league’s drafts that night.

You may recognize that’s AT&T logo on my modem, and they are my ISP (Internet Service Provider). I’m not blaming them for this one down-time incident, because this is the only incident I can ever remember. Every other time they have been providing high speed reliable Internet service. Your provider may not be as reliable, but even the best sometimes have problems. Outside of the event, I highly recommend their fiber service to anyone who has the option.

Be aware that a backup and repair plan for an ISP is inherently different and requires cooperation. If necessary you can purchase an enterprise network connection which will usually guarantee uptime as part of your contract.

The light’s on but nobody was home on the other end…

Instead of complaining, I ended up packing it up and heading over to Panera Bread. I ate dinner and used their WiFi to do my fantasy drafts. Things worked out well overall. I was able to check and see that the Internet connection was working before I left the restaurant.

Not too shabby considering some of the picks at the end were auto-drafts due to Internet connection issues. Aside from some injuries, no backups nor repairs needed to this roster!

Things fall apart, are you ready with a backup and repair plan?

Whatever you do in life for work, for fun, or for your family are all now inextricably tied into the digital world. We’ve helped many clients who’ve experienced similar problems. Like an old PC breaking down, a PC infected by malware, crucial data recovery, and restoring connections of printers. No matter what your life throws at you, you can count on things falling apart. Are you ready? We can help you setup a backup and repair plan or suggest replacements to upgrade and get you back online.

Trust us, because we’ve all been there and learned lessons to minimize your downtime and get you back to doing what you love doing best!

Oak City IT Blog

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IT work that actually works

IT work that actually works! We share all the best tips and tricks to tech in your organization. Also, posts show off our clients’ success stories which are ideas for how we can help you.

Modern computing technology requires a wide breadth and depth of knowledge. Thus we’re not only comfortable sharing our tips and tricks we insist on empowering you.

Your goals are our goals

Many IT service providers stick to old processes to do their job. This might have worked at one point, but you have new needs today to adapt to an ever changing world. Consider asking a professional that’s more in tune to your needs than trying to reach a quota on their ticketing system. To give you IT work that actually works for you we listen to your needs and goals first then apply our vast knowledge to the best solution for you.

Need something faster? Got a tight budget to work with? Need the best in class solutions? Our loyalty is solely to our clients. Trust us to not railroad you into a solution that fits our needs and forgets yours. Instead we will take your goals and consult with you on the best way to reach them.

Think global; act local

We have experience working with clients all over the world, but we like to focus on organizations in the greater Raleigh North Carolina area. We live here and we like figuratively and literally seeing eye to eye in person. If your Internet connection goes down, you don’t want to have to wait on service from someone in another time zone to try to fix it. You need help now. We look forward to earning your trust with the services you need and there’s no better way than to provide knowledgeable timely help in person!

Windows 10 Free Updates Last Chance

Get Windows 10 Upgrade for free until December 31st, 2017.

Microsoft quietly announced they will discontinue giving away free upgrades of Windows 10 to genuine licensed users of Win 7, 8, and 8.1 at the end of this month.

If you’ve been holding out and still use earlier versions of Microsoft’s system software, consider using that link and going through the process to upgrade your PC. Allegedly Win 7, 8, and 8.1 (in addition to Win 10) all got patches for such vulnerabilities as the recent KRACK WiFi security risk. Microsoft may not support any version other than 10 in the future.

On the fence on whether or not to upgrade? We can’t make the decision for you, but we would love to help. Windows 10 is worth it for the security and continuous support alone. While functionally Win 7 was much better, Microsoft are moving all their support and updates to Win10.

What you save by upgrading for free this year:

Retail pricing information:

Edition Pricing
Windows 10 Home US $119
Windows 10 Pro US $199
Windows 10 Pro Pack US $99

To keep it 100, there are reasons you may not want to switch to the newer version. They boil down to two main ones:

  1. You don’t want to participate in the testing of new, experimental features. This only happens if you have the Home version, Pro users should not have this problem.
  2. You are worried about the data collected and distributed by Microsoft through Windows 10. This again should be better for Pro/Enterprise users, but if you are worried about surveillance, stick with the Windows you know and already use.

You should upgrade if neither of those two considerations concern you.

Windows 10 Upgrade
Windows 10 Upgrade

You can read more about the built-in surveillance from Forbes written by Gordon Kelly with words from Microsoft VP Joe Bellfiore.

For more on security updates, performance tweaks, and time-and-money-saving tips check out our blog, follow us on twitter @oakcityit, and follow our facebook Oak City IT page.