Apple now allows you to enhance the security of your Apple ID and iCloud account with hardware security keys, providing an advanced level of protection against hackers, identity thieves, and unwanted surveillance.
Hardware security keys are small physical devices that enable secure login to devices and accounts by communicating with USB or Lightning ports or NFC wireless data connections. They provide an additional layer of security as they require physical possession to be used and are effective at preventing remote access to your account. Additionally, they cannot be used on fake login sites, protecting against phishing attacks. Apple has recently added support for hardware security keys with the release of iOS 16.3 and MacOS 13.2 and has provided instructions on how to use them with iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
The company requires users to set up at least two keys for added security. Apple has been implementing various security measures recently, including Advanced Data Protection in December.
The use of hardware security keys is part of a larger trend in the industry towards stronger authentication methods. The prevalence of data breaches have highlighted the limitations of traditional passwords, and hackers have found ways to bypass common two-factor authentication methods such as security codes sent via text message.
Hardware security keys and other methods, such as passkeys, provide a higher level of security and can protect against even advanced attacks, such as hackers accessing LastPass customers’ password manager files.
Hardware security keys have been available for some time, but the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) group has played a key role in standardizing the technology and making it more widely adopted by websites and apps.
One major benefit of using hardware security keys on the web is that they are specific to certain websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, which makes them effective at preventing phishing attacks that attempt to trick users into logging in to fake sites. They also form the basis of Google’s Advanced Protection Program for users who require maximum security.
Choosing the appropriate hardware security keys for your devices is important. For compatibility with newer models of Macs and iPhones, a key that supports both USB-C and NFC is a suitable option. Though Apple requires the use of two keys, it is recommended to have more as a precaution in case of loss.
A single key can be used to authenticate multiple devices and services, such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft accounts. Yubico, a leading manufacturer of hardware security keys, recently released two new FIDO-certified models in its Security Key Series, catering to consumers. Both support NFC and the $29 model comes with a USB-C connector, the $25 model has a USB-A connector.
In addition to hardware security keys, Google, Microsoft, Apple and other companies are also collaborating to support another FIDO authentication technology called passkeys. Passkeys are intended to completely replace passwords, and they do not require the use of hardware security keys.