The Security Benefits of a Security Key
If you spend any time around cybersecurity aficionados, you’ll never hear the end of the importance of two security tools: a strong and unique password, and two-factor authentication. However, there is a third tool in your arsenal to keep bad actors at bay, albeit less convenient than the former two software-based solutions. We’re talking, of course, about security keys.
Security keys are physical devices that allow you to authenticate yourself with signing into an account or accessing software. The key itself is the password: So long as the software recognizes your key, it’ll let you in.
In effect, a security key can replace two-factor authentication (or 2FA) in certain settings. Rather than use an authenticator app on your smartphone, or set up SMS 2FA codes, you prove your identity with the security key. Both methods are essentially using the same philosophy: While a password can be stolen, a trusted device is much harder for a hacker to get. As long as you keep your smartphone with the authenticator app or a security key on your person, the chances of being hacked are extremely low.
Those chances are made even lower when you combine authentication methods with the security key. While some systems will only look for the key itself before giving you entry, it’s safer to also require a password in the process. That way, in the event someone steals your key, they’ll still need a password to get into your account.
Security keys are becoming more mainstream. In fact, Apple just recently offered support for security keys for iPhone users on iOS 16.3. With it, users can take advantage of security keys for logging into their Apple ID accounts.