Apple has revealed what it believes are the best security keys that provide an extra layer of protection in the digital world.
With the recent release of iOS 16.3, Apple has added security key compatibility to its iPhone and iPad devices – as well as to its laptops and desktops with the macOS 13.2 update.
Now in A supporting document (opens in a new tab)the company has selected its recommendations for the best physical security keys for use with its devices that are compliant with FIDO standards – the premier credential security alliance that most big tech belongs to.
Security keys are physical devices that can be used to authenticate a login to a website or service – a type of multi-factor authentication (MFA). The difference compared to other more common MFA methods – such as using SMS or an authenticator app on another device – is that the security keys are not connected to your network, so they are protected from potential threats.
The downside to using physical security keys, however, is that there are no copies of the decryption keys associated with them on the cloud network, meaning that if you lose them, you won’t be able to log in. Apple doesn’t keep backups either, so you could be permanently banned from your account.
You can use security keys when logging into your AppleID, in which case they will replace the usual six-digit codes that make up the standard MFA process. However, you can’t use security keys to sign in to sub or managed AppleIDs or use them with iCloud for Windows.
To use them with Apple Watches, they must be paired with your own phone, not with a family member.
Apple has recommended three good examples of security keys, which are the YubiKey 5C NFC, YubiKey 5Ci, and the FEITAN ePass K9 NFC USB-A. The first two will work with most current Macs and iPhones, while the last will work with older models of these devices as it uses a USB-A connection rather than the latest USB-C found in the other two.
More generally, the company said whatever security keys you choose should be FIDO-certified (opens in a new tab) and of course have the right connection type for your device.
Apple says USB-C security keys work with most of its devices, and those that use Near Field Communication (NFC) only work with iPhones from the iPhone 6 onwards. They connect wirelessly to your device but don’t use your Wi-Fi network, so they’re safe from prying eyes.
- While security keys are not essential to staying safe, using one of the best password managers almost is.