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How to use iPhone's Security Keys feature to protect your Apple ID

Security Keys can help to create an extra line of defense for your Apple ID to keep hackers away.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
iPhone trying to AirPlay
Josh Slate/ZDNET

Apple has added a new feature to iPhones running iOS 16 and later called Security Keys for Apple ID.

This feature allows you to use hardware security keys to add an additional layer of protection to your Apple ID. 

Think of it as a password that you plug in. This way, even if your password were to fall into the wrong hands, it would be useless without access to the right security keys.

Also: The best security keys

This is a game-changer and the best way to protect your Apple ID from hackers. I'll show you how to get it set up.

How to use Security Keys to protect your Apple ID on your iPhone

1. Gather your security keys

You'll need a minimum of two security keys (up to a maximum of six). You need to have two in case you lose or misplace one.

The security keys need to be Fido-certified keys. I recommend you take a look at:

2. Go to your Settings

Start by tapping on Settings, and then your name and photo at the top. Next, tap on Sign-In & Security.

Settings on iPhone
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

3. Add Security Keys

Tap on Two-Factor Authentication, then Security Keys, and then add Security Keys.

Also: The best VPN services (and how to choose the right one for you)

If you have existing security keys enrolled, they will appear here. If you do not recognize them, remove them.

Password and Security section of iPhone settings
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

4. Enroll the first Security Key

Remember that before you start, you need a minimum of two security keys.

Also: The best VPN services for iPhone and iPad (yes, you need to use one)

My first security key is a YubiKey 5 NFC, so I tap this one to enroll.

Your iPhone will prompt you to enter your passcode, confirm that you want to add a security key, plug in the security key or bring it nearby, and name the security key. See the following screenshots for what that'll look like. 

Enter iPhone passcode page on iPhone
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
iPhone with cursor hovering over Add Security Keys
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
iPhone page with You Need Two Security Keys notification on it
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Add Security Keys page on iPhone
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Naming first security key on iPhone

You can give your security key a memorable name.

Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

5. Enroll your other security keys

My second security key is the YubiKey 5Ci, which has a Lightning connector on one end I can plug into the iPhone, and a USB-C connector on the other end for other devices such as Macs, MacBooks, Windows PCs, iPads, and Android devices. 

Also: This is the ultimate security key. Here's why you need one

Follow the prompts to enroll your second security key.

Add Security Keys page on iPhone
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Naming second security key on iPhone

Again, you can give your security key a memorable name.

Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

6. Check that there are no rogue devices logged in with your Apple ID

Next, you're presented with a list of devices currently signed in with your Apple ID. 

Also: Google paves way for FIDO2 security keys that can resist quantum computer attacks

All devices should be ones you recognize. If not, remove that device from the listing.

Review Your Active Devices page on iPhone
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

7. Keep the security keys separate

The process shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.

Now that you're done, make sure to store your keys in separate places (I have one in use and another as backup, but you might want one for home and another for the office, or whatever works for you).

Also: The best VPNs for streaming your favorite shows and sports

Don't keep both in the same place -- such as on the same keyring. That way if you lose one, you'll lose both.

Security Keys added notification
Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
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