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iOS 16.3 (as well as iPadOS 16.3 and macOS Ventura 13.2) now supports physical security keys as Apple continues to tighten iOS security. In other words, rather than using a passcode, a physical device can validate your Apple ID login. Here’s how it operates and why it’s a fantastic approach to increase your security.

You still need a password because these keys require two-factor authentication (2FA), which they complement. If you’ve already set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account, you are already accustomed to entering into a new Apple device using your email address and password before receiving a six-digit code through SMS or another device (such as an iPhone or a Mac) that you are already logged into. That second step, the passcode, is replaced by the security key.

It is believed that having something tangible with you is more safe than using a passcode, which can be guessed, tried again, or observed from behind you. According to Apple, the security key offers “additional defense against targeted attacks like phishing or social engineering frauds.” While a fraudulent website or app may be able to mislead you into providing a six-digit number, it will be far more difficult to get you to hand up a tangible product.

Security Key to Unlock Your iPhone You must first have 2FA enabled for your account in order to begin using security keys with your Apple ID. Open Settings on your iPhone, press your name at the top, then select Password & Security and Turn On Two-Factor Authentication if you haven’t already. A phone number can be set up to receive SMS messages by following the setup instructions, and you can also name any additional trusted devices you want to utilize.

How to Use a Security Key to Unlock Your iPhone

Workings of Security Keys Unlock Your iPhone

Usually speaking, 2FA is activated when you log in on a new device or a device you haven’t used in a while; however, since your Mac and iPhone have already been identified as trusted devices, you won’t need to go through this process every time you use them. Due to the vulnerability of usernames and passwords, which may be easily guessed, duped out of you, or leaked online, 2FA adds an additional step to the login process.

Security keys become an extra step once you set them up. They can connect to your device directly using a lightning or USB port, or (only on iPhones) they can interact wirelessly using the NFC protocol. In essence, they validate your identity, granting you access to your Apple ID and all of your installed apps and services.


You should keep in mind that you don’t want to misplace your security key. Apple will encourage you to create two at first so you may save a backup somewhere safe. Nevertheless, if you lose both of them, there’s a chance you’ll lose access to your account indefinitely (there might be recovery possibilities, but Apple isn’t mentioning them, perhaps for security reasons).

There are a few locations where it won’t function, and you must complete this procedure when logging in to your Apple ID in a new web browser (at least not yet). You might want to wait if you use your Apple account on Windows-based devices because iCloud for Windows is possibly the most significant one. Moreover, security keys cannot be used with Apple devices running outdated software or with Apple IDs associated with minors.

Configuring Security Keys Unlock Your iPhone

The first step is to purchase a few security keys, which can be purchased online for about $50 each. According to Apple, you need keys that are FIDO (Fast ID Online) certified and have the proper connectors for your devices: NFC (only for iPhones), lightning, USB-C, or USB-A. These security keys are compatible with adapter dongles and cables, so it should be simpler to discover ones that work with all of your intended devices.

You can set up everything from an iPhone or an iPad by going to Settings, pressing on your name at the top, and selecting Password & Security once you have your actual keys in hand and the most recent software updates installed. To link security keys to your Apple ID, select Add Security Keys and follow the onscreen instructions. You can simultaneously review every device that is currently connected to your Apple ID.

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Make sure you’re using the most recent version of macOS, then go to the Apple menu and select System Settings. To add a password or security key, select Password & Security and click Add next to the Security Keys heading after clicking on your name at the top of the left navigation pane. Next, you’ll be guided through the process of connecting your keys to your account, and the devices you’re already using with your Apple ID will be displayed.

As we indicated previously, you can add up to six security keys to your account, but you must add at least two. If you want to remove one or more of your security keys, go to the same screens on iOS, iPadOS, or macOS; you’ll see a Remove All Security Keys option there. If you choose this, the passcode method will once again be used for two-factor authentication.

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