Apple says these are the best security keys around now

Apple Security keys
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has revealed what it believes are the best security keys to add an extra layer of protection to your digital world. 

The recent release of iOS 16.3 saw Apple add 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 support document, the company has selected its recommendations for the best physical security keys to use with its devices, which comply with FIDO standards - the foremost alliance on credential security that most of big tech are signed up to. 

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Physical protection

Security keys are physical devices that you can use to authenticate a login to a website or service - a type of multi-factor authentication (MFA) method. The difference compared to other, more common MFA methods - such as using an SMS message or authenticator app on another device - is that security keys are not connected to your network, so are protected from any potential compromises on it. 

The downside of using physical security keys, however, is that there are no copies of their associated decryption keys stored on a cloud network, meaning that if you were to misplace them, you won't be able to log in. Apple doesn't keep any backups either, so you may be permanently locked out of your account. 

You can use security keys when logging into your AppleID, in which case they will replace the usual six-digit codes that comprise the standard MFA process. However, you cannot use security keys to login into child or managed AppleID accounts, nor can you use them with iCloud for Windows.

To use them with Apple Watches, they have to be paired with your own phone, not a family member's. 

Apple has recommended what it believes to be three good examples of security keys, which are the YubiKey 5C NFC, YubiKey 5Ci and FEITAN ePass K9 NFC USB-A. The first two it says will work with most current Macs and iPhones, whilst the last will work with older models of these devices, since it uses a USB-A connection rather than the latest USB-C featured on the other two. 

More generally, the company stated that any security keys you opt for should be FIDO certified and, of course, have the right connection type for your device. 

Apple states that security keys with a USB-C connector work with most of its devices, and those that use near-field communication (NFC) only work with iPhones from iPhone 6 onwards. These connect wirelessly to your device, but do not use your wi-fi network, so are safe from prying eyes. 

  • Although security keys are not essential to stay safe, using one of the best password managers pretty much is.
Lewis Maddison
Staff Writer

Lewis Maddison is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro. His area of expertise is online security and protection, which includes tools and software such as password managers. 

His coverage also focuses on the usage habits of technology in both personal and professional settings - particularly its relation to social and cultural issues - and revels in uncovering stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.

He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of London, with a year spent studying abroad in the sunny climes of Malta.