January 31, 2023

Apple just rolled out a new software update — iOS 16.3 — to your iPhone. It fixes a few bugs, but also delivers a few features, such as support for newest HomePod (2nd-generation) and a new iPhone wallpaper to celebrate Black History month. Maybe most interestingly is the fact that iOS 16.3 brings a pretty cool new security feature to your iPhone.

Specifically, iOS 16.3 allows you to use third-party hardware security keys as an alternative to two-factor authentication for verifying your Apple ID (which you need for downloading apps, logging into new devices and making purchases). According to Apple’s support page, these security keys are “designed for people who want extra protection from targeted attacks, such as phishing or social engineering scams.”

A hardware security key — such as the YubiKey 5 NFC or Google Titan — is a physical key (which looks like a little thumb drive) that’s based on the FIDO security protocol. It can be plugged into your device via USB-A or USB-C, or it can use NFC (which is how it connects to an iPhone), and it then confirms that “you are you.” So instead of setting up a PIN or passcode as your two-factor authentication, you’ll be able to simply press the security key on the top of your iPhone. It’s more secure and just as quick.

Once your iPhone is running iOS 16.3, setting up a hardware security key is actually pretty easy. It does, however, require you to have two hardware keys — one that you carry on your person at all times, and one as a back-up in case you lose the other — which brings about an extra cost. Most hardware security keys cost between $25 and $50 a pop. According to Apple’s support page, any hardware security key that’s “FIDO certified” should work.

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How to Set Up a Security Key on Your iPhone

  1. Unlock your iPhone.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Click your name (located at the top of the screen).
  4. Select Password & Security.
  5. Select Add Security Key.

    From here, you’ll just have to follow the on-screen instructions to set up both of your hardware security keys. If at any point you want to remove your hardware security keys and go back to digital two-factor authentication, you can do so easily by following the above steps and selecting “Remove All Security Keys.”

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