How to Unlock Your iPhone With a Security Key
Passcodes are out
Apple continues to tighten iOS security, and iOS 16.3 (and iPadOS 16.3, and macOS Ventura 13.2) includes support for physical security keys. In other words, a physical device can verify your Apple ID login in place of a passcode. It’s a great way to boost your security, and here’s how it works.
These keys work in tandem with two-factor authentication (2FA), so you still need your password. If you already have 2FA set up on your account, you’re familiar with logging into a new Apple device using your email address and password and then having a six-digit code sent via SMS or to another device (like an iPhone or a Mac) that you're already logged in on. The security key replaces that second step, the passcode.
The thinking is that having something physical that stays with you is more secure than a passcode, which can be guessed, brute-forced, or viewed over your shoulder. Apple says the security key provides “extra protection from targeted attacks, such as phishing or social engineering scams.” While a scam website or app might trick you into revealing a six-digit number, getting you to hand over a physical object is much harder.
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