Beginning February 27th, Microsoft Authenticator will enforce its number-matching system for improved phishing protection. But this system has never worked on smartwatches, so naturally, Microsoft has ended Authenticator support for the Apple Watch.
Previously, Microsoft Authenticator gave users the option to approve login requests from their Apple Watch. But the number-matching system requires that you type a code from your computer’s screen into your authentication device. This verification method provides increased security, but it requires a reasonably large screen for a numeric keyboard, which smartwatches lack.
“Number matching is a key security upgrade to traditional second factor notifications in Microsoft Authenticator. We will remove the admin controls and enforce the number match experience tenant-wide for all users starting February 27, 2023.”
This is an inconvenience for many users, especially those who are required to use Microsoft Authenticator for work. While individuals can always switch to a different MFA system, businesses that are already invested in Azure will probably stick with Authenticator.
I should reiterate that Microsoft is enforcing this number-matching system for all users. Sysadmins can’t go back to the old way of doing things, and the Apple Watch app is dead. That said, users can still receive authentication alerts on their Apple Watch.
Still, there’s hope. Major tech leaders, including Microsoft, are now developing passkey verification systems that are more secure and easier to use than existing code- or number-matching MFA methods. The rise of this technology could make Authenticator a viable app for smartwatches.