Windows identity protection

Learn more about identity protection technologies in Windows.


Windows Hello for Business and FIDO2 security keys are modern, two-factor authentication methods for Windows. Customers using virtual smart cards are encouraged to move to Windows Hello for Business or FIDO2. For new Windows installations, we recommend Windows Hello for Business or FIDO2 security keys.

Passwordless sign in

Feature name Description
Windows Hello for Business Windows 11 devices can protect user identities by removing the need to use passwords from day one. It's easy to get started with the method that's right for your organization. A password may only need to be used once during the provisioning process, after which people use a PIN, face, or fingerprint to unlock credentials and sign into the device.

Windows Hello for Business replaces the username and password by combining a security key or certificate with a PIN or biometrics data, and then mapping the credentials to a user account during setup. There are multiple ways to deploy Windows Hello for Business, depending on your organization's needs. Organizations that rely on certificates typically use on-premises public key infrastructure (PKI) to support authentication through Certificate Trust. Organizations using key trust deployment require root-of-trust provided by certificates on domain controllers.
Windows presence sensing Windows presence sensing provides another layer of data security protection for hybrid workers. Windows 11 devices can intelligently adapt to your presence to help you stay secure and productive, whether you're working at home, the office, or a public environment. Windows presence sensing combines presence detection sensors with Windows Hello facial recognition to automatically lock your device when you leave, and then unlock your device and sign you in using Windows Hello facial recognition when you return. Requires OEM supporting hardware.
Windows Hello for Business Enhanced Security Sign-in (ESS) Windows Hello biometrics also supports enhanced sign-in security, which uses specialized hardware and software components to raise the security bar even higher for biometric sign in.

Enhanced sign-in security biometrics uses VBS and the TPM to isolate user authentication processes and data and secure the pathway by which the information is communicated. These specialized components protect against a class of attacks that include biometric sample injection, replay, tampering, and more.

For example, fingerprint readers must implement Secure Device Connection Protocol, which uses key negotiation and a Microsoft-issued certificate to protect and securely store user authentication data. For facial recognition, components such as the Secure Devices (SDEV) table and process isolation with trustlets help prevent additional class of attacks.
Windows passwordless experience Windows passwordless experience is a security policy that aims to create a more user-friendly experience for Microsoft Entra joined devices by eliminating the need for passwords in certain authentication scenarios. By enabling this policy, users will not be given the option to use a password in these scenarios, which helps organizations transition away from passwords over time.
Passkeys Passkeys provide a more secure and convenient method to logging into websites and applications compared to passwords. Unlike passwords, which users must remember and type, passkeys are stored as secrets on a device and can use a device's unlock mechanism (such as biometrics or a PIN). Passkeys can be used without the need for other sign in challenges, making the authentication process faster, secure, and more convenient.
FIDO2 security key Fast Identity Online (FIDO) defined CTAP and WebAuthN specifications are becoming the open standard for providing strong authentication that is non-phishable, user-friendly, and privacy-respecting with implementations from major platform providers and relying parties. FIDO standards and certifications are becoming recognized as the leading standard for creating secure authentication solutions across enterprises, governments, and consumer markets.

Windows 11 can use external FIDO2 security keys for authentication alongside or in addition to Windows Hello which is also a FIDO2 certified passwordless solution. Windows 11 can be used as a FIDO authenticator for many popular identity management services.
Smart Cards for Windows Service Organizations also have the option of using smart cards, an authentication method that pre-dates biometric sign in. Smart cards are tamper-resistant, portable storage devices that can enhance Windows security when authenticating clients, signing code, securing e-mail, and signing in with Windows domain accounts. Smart cards can only be used to sign into domain accounts, not local accounts. When a password is used to sign into a domain account, Windows uses the Kerberos version 5 (v5) protocol for authentication. If you use a smart card, the operating system uses Kerberos v5 authentication with X.509 v3 certificates.

Advanced credential protection

Feature name Description
Web sign-in Web sign-in is a credential provider initially introduced in Windows 10 with support for Temporary Access Pass (TAP) only. With the release of Windows 11, the supported scenarios and capabilities of Web sign-in have been expanded. For example, users can sign-in to Windows using the Microsoft Authenticator app or with a federated identity.
Federated sign-in Windows 11 Education editions support federated sign-in with non-Microsoft identity providers. Federated sign-in enables secure sign in through methods like QR codes or pictures.
Windows LAPS Windows Local Administrator Password Solution (Windows LAPS) is a Windows feature that automatically manages and backs up the password of a local administrator account on your Microsoft Entra joined or Windows Server Active Directory-joined devices. You also can use Windows LAPS to automatically manage and back up the Directory Services Restore Mode (DSRM) account password on your Windows Server Active Directory domain controllers. An authorized administrator can retrieve the DSRM password and use it.
Account Lockout Policy Account Lockout Policy settings control the response threshold for failed logon attempts and the actions to be taken after the threshold is reached.
Enhanced phishing protection with SmartScreen Users who are still using passwords can benefit from powerful credential protection. Microsoft Defender SmartScreen includes enhanced phishing protection to automatically detect when a user enters their Microsoft password into any app or website. Windows then identifies if the app or site is securely authenticating to Microsoft and warns if the credentials are at risk. Since users are alerted at the moment of potential credential theft, they can take preemptive action before their password is used against them or their organization.
Access Control (ACL/SACL) Access control in Windows ensures that shared resources are available to users and groups other than the resource's owner and are protected from unauthorized use. IT administrators can manage users', groups', and computers' access to objects and assets on a network or computer. After a user is authenticated, the Windows operating system implements the second phase of protecting resources by using built-in authorization and access control technologies to determine if an authenticated user has the correct permissions.

Access Control Lists (ACL) describe the permissions for a specific object and can also contain System Access Control Lists (SACL). SACLs provide a way to audit specific system level events, such as when a user attempt to access file system objects. These events are essential for tracking activity for objects that are sensitive or valuable and require extra monitoring. Being able to audit when a resource attempts to read or write part of the operating system is critical to understanding a potential attack.
Credential Guard Enabled by default in Windows 11 Enterprise, Credential Guard uses hardware-backed, Virtualization-based security (VBS) to protect against credential theft. With Credential Guard, the Local Security Authority (LSA) stores and protects secrets in an isolated environment that isn't accessible to the rest of the operating system. LSA uses remote procedure calls to communicate with the isolated LSA process.

By protecting the LSA process with Virtualization-based security, Credential Guard shields systems from credential theft attack techniques like pass-the-hash or pass-the-ticket. It also helps prevent malware from accessing system secrets even if the process is running with admin privileges.
Remote Credential Guard Remote Credential Guard helps you protect your credentials over a Remote Desktop connection by redirecting the Kerberos requests back to the device that is requesting the connection. It also provides single sign-on experiences for Remote Desktop sessions.

Administrator credentials are highly privileged and must be protected. When you use Remote Credential Guard to connect during Remote Desktop sessions, your credential and credential derivatives are never passed over the network to the target device. If the target device is compromised, your credentials aren't exposed.