Apple releases open source tools for password manager developers

Developers can incorporate known password rules and change password URLs to improve the standard of common platforms

Apple has launched an open source project to give developers of password managers a set of tools to create strong passwords compatible with widely-used websites and platforms. 

Password Manager Resources, published on GitHub, allows developers to integrate website-specific requirements used by the iCloud Keychain password manager to generate strong, unique passwords.

The tools have been released to resolve an issue with many password managers, where the unique and strong passwords generated automatically aren’t necessarily compatible with the websites they are being created for.

Should password managers generate a password that is not compatible with a website’s specific requirements, the fear is that users would abandon the process and generate their own relatively insecure password.

“By sharing resources, all password managers can improve their quality with less work than it'd take for any individual password manager to achieve the same effect,” the project’s readme said.

“By publicly documenting website-specific behaviours, password managers can offer an incentive for websites to use standards or emerging standards to improve their compatibility with password managers; it's no fun to be called out on a list! By improving the quality of password managers, we improve user trust in them as a concept, which benefits everyone.”

Password Manager Resources also contain ‘quirks’, which refers to specific password rules on various platforms, websites with shared credential backend systems, as well as change password URLs, so users are taken directly to relevant pages.

Apple has encouraged users to incorporate the data from the project into their password managers, but to also contribute any ‘quirks’ back into the project.

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Passwords are now considered by many across the industry to be incompatible with the strongest ideals of information security. Reuse of common passwords, for example, and individuals using the same password across different accounts and sign-ins are known to be two issues responsible for a vast swathe of breaches.

Microsoft, for example, revealed in December 2019 that 44 million users were still using passwords that were previously compromised in past data breaches.

With alternatives, such as biometric security, not yet in a position to be widely adopted, Apple is hoping the move can bolster password security for masses of people who rely on the protocol to safeguard their personal and corporate data.

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