A USB Security key is the safest hardware-based two-factor authentication (2FA) solution for accessing your online accounts. While all other forms of 2FA work just fine, they could leave loopholes for malware or account takeovers. A physical security key adds a defense layer to your online life that's innately hard to hack. Depending on your devices, you can get a security key that connects via USB-C, USB-A, Bluetooth, or Lightning for iPhone users. Let's take a look at some of the best security keys available today.
Water and crush resistant
Backed by a reputable company and the co-developer of the FIDO U2F open authentication standard used by many security keys, the YubiKey 5 provides a simple and intuitive authentication experience. The key fits the USB-A port, and all you must do is tap to gain access. It's also NFC enabled for easy tap-and-go authentication for NFC-supported iOS, Android, or Windows 10 devices and applications. The key is made from reinforced fiberglass complete with hermetic sealing for durability.
A smart password manager and key in one
OnlyKey is a plug-and-play encryption key that can be used to log into your computer and online accounts. The onboard keypad can bypass keystroke loggers that find their way onto your computer, keeping your online accounts safe if the computer or website is compromised. It supports multiple methods of 2FA, including FIDO 2 U2F, Yubico OTP, and TOTP. OnlyKey is also a password manager. It offers features such as encrypted backup, self-destruct (which wipes the device after a certain number of incorrect attempts), and the ability to update the firmware to access new features. On the downside, its user interface is far from the prettiest.
Easily rotates into an aluminum alloy cover for protection
If you are looking for a Bluetooth enabled security key, this model from Thetis should be high on your list. This handy key connects via a USB-A port or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, making it ideal for both computers and mobile devices. The key works for websites supporting the FIDO U2F protocol, but there is no UAF or OTP compatibility. However, it will secure access to websites so long as you’re using Chrome or Opera as a browser on Windows, macOS, or Linux. The folding design with a rotating aluminum casing protects the connector from potential damage while being transported.
A future-proofed multi-protocol key
As the USB-C gains traction as the standard industry connector, you may want to future proof your accessories. The 5Ci is equipped with both Lightning and USB-C ports, ideal if you are a user (and looking to protect) both USB-C and Apple devices. It’s FIDO-compliant and works with applications on iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux, providing access to services such as Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox, Outlook, LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password. While it’s more expensive than competing models, its versatility and multi-protocol support make it one of the most versatile and best security keys.
Discreetly fits computer USB-A ports
If you prefer having your key in the port for long, this SoloKeys nano key is perfect for the job. It packs all the punch of larger keys into a tiny minimalist frame and will fit discreetly into a USB-A port. It has open-source hardware and software and will work with any platform that supports FIDO2 or FIDO U2F protocol. For better handling, Solo comes with a colored, sleek (and grippy) silicone case.
Secure it with a key
Staying secure online requires both physical tools and software systems. If you are still using SMS, OTP codes, or email alerts as your 2FA solution, it's time to beef up security with a physical security key.
Our best security key has to be the Yubico YubiKey 5 NFC for its simple and intuitive user experience. The key combines public-key cryptography and hardware-based authentication for reliable defense against phishing or account takeover attempts. Besides, it supports a wide range of protocols giving you a range of authentication options.
On occasion, small is way better. The Somu SoloKeys Security Key can be eclipsed by most coins and is inconspicuous when attached to a keyring or inserted into a computer port. Its diminutive size comes at a cost, however, in that there is no NFC onboard, which in my opinion, isn't a bad tradeoff for its size.