Best Security Keys iMore 2021
Two-factor authentication is a must these days, but the most popular method for account security — SMS, is not quite fool-proof. With just a call to your phone carrier and a little social engineering, your two-factor codes are vulnerable to interception, so if you truly want to lock down your accounts, you need the best security keys. Security keys must be present when logging into your accounts — ensuring that you, and only you, can sign in. The YubiKey 5 NFC, provides USB convenience for the best MacBook, as well as NFC for the iPhone 12 making it our top pick. If you are ready to add an extra layer of protection to your accounts, these are the best security keys you can buy today.
- Best Overall: Yubico — YubiKey 5 NFC
- Best Value: FIDO U2F Security Key, Thetis
- Best for mobile: Yubico YubiKey 5Ci
- Best for Windows Desktops: Kensington VeriMark Desktop USB Fingerprint Key Reader
- Best Compatibility: Google Titan Bluetooth Security Key
- Best for Laptops: Yubico - YubiKey 5C Nano
Best Overall: Yubico — YubiKey 5 NFC
Yubico's YubiKey 5 NFC is an all-in-one, multi-device security solution that can go along with you in your travels with a compact design and integrated keychain loop. This versatile key sports a universal USB-A connector so you can plug it into your computer, plus NFC enables wireless connectivity with the latest iOS and Android phones. Having both options ensures that you always have a way to access your services no matter which device you are on.
Like other Yubico security keys, the YubiKey 5 NFC supports a wide range of protocols like FIDO U2F, FIDO2, OpenPGP, and OATH-TOTP, making it one of the most compatible keys around. Multi-protocol support means that the YubiKey 5 NFC works with the most popular app and services, including Dropbox, Outlook, 1Password, Gmail, and Facebook, with minimal setup right out of the box.
- Multi-protocol support
- USB-A and NFC connectivity
- Works with phones, computers, and tablets
- Integrated keychain loop
- USB-A only
- No Bluetooth option
Best Value: FIDO U2F Security Key, Thetis
The Thetis FIDO U2F Security Key gets you into the hardware two-factor game at an affordable, wallet-friendly price. As its name suggests, this key is FIDO U2F-certified enabling two-factor support for websites like Facebook, Dropbox, and Google. Plus it works with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome OS. However, unlike Yubico's security keys, this one doesn't support email clients and is limited to just the U2F protocol.
Despite the low price, the Thetis FIDO U2F Security Key features a durable aluminum frame that keeps your two-factor pass protected from everyday events like drops and bumps. The USB-A port is also kept safe with a unique rotating design that tucks it away when not in use, and the key can live on your keychain with the integrated loop.
- USB-A compatibility
- Folding design with keychain loop
- USB-A connection only
- Doesn't support mobile devices
- Doesn't work with email clients
Best for mobile: Yubico YubiKey 5Ci
If you are still rocking an older iPhone or Android phone but want to lock down your accounts with a hardware two-factor solution, then the YubiKey 5Ci is the one for you. This unique security key features a dual-connector design with USB-C on one end and an iOS-friendly Lightning connector on the other, putting authentication just a simple plug and tap away.
Since the YubiKey 5Ci is for mobile, it has a keychain loop for convenient storage, and you don't have to worry about managing yet another battery with its plug-in design. This key also supports all of the latest protocols enabling on-the-go access for social media services, email, and more.
- Works with iOS and Android phones
- Lighting and USB-C connectors
- Integrated keychain loop
- Lacks wireless connectivity
Best for Windows Desktops: Kensington VeriMark Desktop USB Fingerprint Key Reader
Kensington's VeriMark Desktop USB Fingerprint Key Reader takes a different approach to two-factor authentication with a combination of a stationary, desktop-friendly design and biometric security. This key supports up to 10 different fingerprints putting another layer of protection for your accounts, and it is so secure that it is certified for use in government institutions.
Along with FIDO U2F and FIDO2 compatibility, the Kensington VeriMark Desktop security key features Windows Hello certification so you (and your co-workers) can log into your PC without having to type in your long password. The only downside? Kensington's security key only works with Windows 7 and later PCs — no macOS or Chrome OS support here.
- Supports ten fingerprints
- Convenient desktop design
- Windows Hello certified
- Doesn't support macOS
- Not portable
Best Compatibility: Google Titan Bluetooth Security Key
The Titan Bluetooth Security Key works with computers, tablets, and phones over Bluetooth, NFC, or a classic micro-USB connection. Although it comes from Google, the Titan Security Key isn't limited to just Google services as it supports the open FIDO U2F standard, so you can use it to authenticate with a host of services and apps.
For authenticating on the go, the Titan Security Key has an integrated rechargeable battery, and it attaches to keychains with the onboard loop. Google's key is also surprisingly affordable, but it may not be the most durable with its plastic frame, and it is a little bulkier than the competition.
- Low price
- Designed by Google
- Supports Bluetooth, NFC, and USB
- Plastic frame
- Micro-USB connection
Best for Laptops: Yubico - YubiKey 5C Nano
Yubico's Yubikey 5C Nano takes miniaturization to the extreme with an incredibly tiny module that doesn't look out of place when attached to modern laptops via USB-C. The smaller footprint is just as capable as larger YubiKeys as it supports all of the same standards, including FIDO U2F and FIDO2, and it still requires a tap for authentication.
The 5C Nano is also just as rugged and durable as other security keys with water, tamper, and crush resistance. The only thing that the 5C lacks is wireless connectivity which prevents iPhones from joining in on the hardware security fun since it utilizes USB-C.
- Incredibly small
- Works with Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, and Linux
- No wireless option
Nothing beats having a physical security key in conjunction with two-factor authentication when it comes to securing your accounts. By linking critical services like your email account with the best security keys, you can rest easy knowing that you are the only one who can gain access — unlike SMS codes which are subject to social engineering attacks through mobile operators.
Yubico's YubiKey 5 NFC gets our pick for the best security key for most with its ability to work with a wide variety of devices and slick form factor. The YubiKey 5 NFC features both a standard USB-A connector making it compatible with computers of all ages — and with NFC wireless technology, you can log in to your accounts on the best iPhone just by having it close by. The YubiKey 5 NFC is also incredibly compact and lightweight, making it easy to keep on you at all times as you can slip it right onto your keychain.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Christopher Close spends most of his time writing and dreaming about all things HomeKit for iMore. If you wish to join him on his quest to automate everything, you can follow him on Twitter at @itschrisclose.
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