The new iOS option makes it harder for someone to access iCloud

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Apple now lets you protect your Apple ID and iCloud account with hardware security keys, an important update for those who want maximum protection from hackers, identity thieves, or stalkers.

Hardware security keys are small physical devices connect to USB or Lightning ports or NFC wireless data connections when you sign in to a device or account. Because you need to have the keys on hand to use them, they are effective at preventing hackers from trying to access your account remotely.

Mainstream support arrived on Monday with iOS 16.3 and macOS 13.2, and on Tuesday Apple released details about using Security Keys on iPhone, iPad and Mac devices. The company requires at least two keys to be configured.

Apple has been trying to beef up security in recent months in the wake of iPhone hacks NSO Group Pegasus Spyware. Apple’s advanced data protection option Coming in December, it provides strong encryption for data stored and synced with iCloud. And in September, Apple added iPhone lock mode includes new security barriers to your phone’s operation to block external attacks.

One big caveat, though: While hardware security keys and Advanced Data Protection can lock down your account better, they mean Apple can’t help you regain access.

“This feature is intended for users who are frequently exposed to common threats to their online accounts, such as celebrities, journalists, and government officials,” Apple said in a statement. . “This takes our two-factor authentication a step further, preventing even a sophisticated attacker from obtaining the user’s second factor in a phishing scam.”

Hardware security keys have been around for years, but the Fast Identity Online, or FIDO, group has helped standardize the technology and bring its use to websites and apps. A big advantage on the Internet is that they link to specific websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, so they prevent phishing attacks that try to trick you into visiting fake websites. They also form the basis of Google’s Advanced Protection program for those who want maximum security.

Apple added support for hardware security keys for iOS 16.2 and macOS 13.2.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

You must select the correct hardware security keys for your devices. A USB-C and NFC-enabled dongle is a good option for connecting to relatively new Mac and iPhone models. Apple requires you to have two keys, but it’s not a bad idea to have more in case you lose them. You can use one key to authenticate many different devices and services, such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft accounts.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Yubico, a leading manufacturer of hardware security keys, on Tuesday announced two new FIDO-certified YubiKey models in its series of consumer-friendly security keys. They both support NFC, but the $29 model has a USB-C connector and the $25 model has an older USB-A connector.

Google, Microsoft, Apple and other allies are working to support another FIDO authentication technology called Security Keys. Security keys are intended to replace passwords this is correct and they do not require hardware security keys.

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