The acronym FIDO stands for "Fast IDentity Online". The FIDO Alliance is a standards body, of which Yubico is a member, that provides techniques for using security keys to instantly access any number of online services (such as login) with no drivers or host device software needed.
There are two FIDO standards that the YubiKey currently implements:
- FIDO U2F
These standards a related. U2F can be thought of as "version 1" of the standard, and FIDO2 is "version 2". "U2F" stands for "Universal Second Factor" authentication.
The SDK treats each version as a separate application, even though there is some overlap inside the YubiKey itself.
There are three components in FIDO U2F:
- The authenticator (YubiKey)
- The client (a browser, platform component, or application)
- The relying party (verifies the authentication process)
With FIDO2, the host (e.g. the laptop or phone) does not need any drivers or other software outside of the client which implements support for FIDO2. If no FIDO2 client is available, it will not be possible to perform the authentication.
You will often hear the term "CTAP" (pronounced "see-tap") with respect to FIDO2.
Briefly, CTAP is the name given by the FIDO2 standard to the section of the standard dealing with communication between the client (browser) and authenticator (the YubiKey). In fact, it stands for "Client To Authenticator Protocol". CTAP1 is the specification used for U2F. Later on, with FIDO2, the communication protocol was updated as well. Hence, FIDO2 primarily uses CTAP2. More information on CTAP is given in further User's Manual articles.
Another term you might hear is "WebAuthn" (pronounced "web-auth-en", short for Web Authentication). This is a specification from the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and the FIDO Alliance that further defines many of the details of FIDO2, CTAP2, and the communication between the relying party and client.
As often happens in computer technology, the once-precise terminology has become somewhat informal. Very often, you will hear people talking about FIDO2 and they will use the terms CTAP, CTAP2, or WebAuthn to mean the entirety of FIDO2. To help dispell any confusion, here is a brief summary of these standards and their relationships to each other.
- FIDO: Fast IDentiy Online, the standards body that developed U2F and FIDO2
- CTAP: Client To Authenticator Protocol
- U2F: Universal Second Factor, the first generation of the standard
- Includes CTAP, later called CTAP1
- Includes Relying Party to Client communication
- FIDO2: The second generation of the standard
- Developed as a partnership between the FIDO Alliance and W3C
- Relying Party to Client communication defined in WebAuthn
- Includes CTAP2, defined in FIDO2 and W3C documents