Buy this today: a USB security key for two-factor authentication

One of the best ways to increase your online accounts' security and stop hackers in their tracks is to get a 2FA USB key

YubiKey 5 NFC 2FA USB key

We’re living in a digital world now more than ever. With many people now rocking sweet work from home PC setups, rolling out of bed two minutes before the work day begins, and booting up their all-in-one work/social/gaming PC, online security is increasingly important. With personal accounts now running alongside work ones, the need for top-notch security is paramount.

One way to quickly improve your online security is through the use of two-factor authentication (2FA), a kind of second layer of security. And while many apps and websites have their own forms of 2FA, you might want something that works across the board and is a little more tangible (not to mention rather stylish, in my opinion). This is where a USB security key can come in handy.

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What is it?

2FA is a way of adding another layer of security to your account logins. It can take the form of a second security question, a device that only you have access to, or even a biometric scan. Striking the balance between security and practicality is a USB security key, which would fall under the ‘device that only you have access to’ category.

A USB security key can be plugged into your device whenever you need to log in to somewhere that accepts it as a form of authentication. This means that in the (hopefully unlikely) event that someone else gains access to your login information, they still won’t be able to access your account without plugging in this USB key.

Why should you buy it?

You know you should be taking more precautions with your online login credentials but aren’t quite sure where to begin. Or you already use a password manager like LastPass and are looking for a convenient way to add 2FA to your logins without having to use your phone as an authenticator due to the possibility for SMS interception or spoofing.

In fact, these USB security keys are best used in combination with password managers like LastPass or Google’s own password manager. If you use one in conjunction with these then you can be sure the accounts you log in to will support the use of the USB key as a means of 2FA, since all your logins will be managed through the password managers that do support it.

What options do you have?

There are a few different options when it comes to 2FA USB keys, and you can even have a go at building your own if you think you’re tech-savvy enough. But for a ‘straight out of the packet’ experience that’s consistent and reliable, the best option is to go for one of Yubico’s YubiKeys.

Yubico’s YubiKey 5 NFC is best for connecting to traditional USB ports, as it uses a standard USB-A connection. It can also use near-field communication (NFC) to activate, rather than plugging into a USB port. It supports a range of protocols and works with all Microsoft, Google, and LastPass accounts, with clear instructions for how to set it up on all three.

Yubico’s YubiKey 5C should be your go-to If you need one with a USB-C connection instead of USB-A. But while this supports the same range of protocols and works with all Microsoft, Google, and LastPass accounts just like the Yubikey 5 NFC, it doesn’t support NFC activation.