Tiny USB dongle the key to stronger security
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Tiny USB dongle the key to stronger security

A tiny security key which you can tap on your smartphone or plug into your computer, Yubico's YubiKey 5C NFC offers an extra line of defence to keep out uninvited guests.

Hackers are getting smarter when it comes to tricking us into handing over our passwords via scam emails. Two-factor authentication (2FA) offers an extra security check when logging into online services like Facebook and Google, which makes it harder for someone to break into your account even if they know your password.

The Yubikey 5C NFC works with your phone and PC.

The Yubikey 5C NFC works with your phone and PC.

2FA relies on both something you know (your password) and something you have (a one-time code). Just one isn't enough, you need both pieces of the puzzle to get into your account.

While you can receive 2FA one-time codes via SMS, or generate them with a smartphone app, using a YubiKey is faster. It's also more secure than SMS, as hackers are known to hijack mobile phone accounts so they can intercept your 2FA text messages.

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There's a range of YubiKeys with different connectors, but the $75 YubiKey 5C NFC is the first to support both USB-C and tap-and-go style NFC connections. When you're asked for a 2FA code, either plug in the key or tap it on your device to use NFC. If your computer lacks new USB-C ports, pick up a cheap USB-C adaptor or opt for a YubiKey with the old USB-A connector.

To make life easier, you can "trust" your own devices so you only need to use 2FA when logging into an account from a new device for the first time. The YubiKey also works with services like 1Password and LastPass, making it easier to keep track of all your passwords.

In theory, the YubiKey 5C NFC is the one security key to rule them all – working with iOS, Android, Windows, macOS and Linux. It's compatible with more than 200 services, including business tools, social media accounts and gaming accounts. You can even use the YubiKey to log into macOS or Windows.

NFC is great for Android, but unfortunately for iGadget owners it only works with a handful of iOS app, the most prominent of which are LastPass, 1Password, Google and Basecamp. Meanwhile, the USB-C connector doesn't work with the iPad Pro.

If you regularly need to log into a wider range of iOS apps, then consider the YubiKey 5Ci which has Apple Lightning and USB-C connectors, but lacks NFC. It's a frustrating compromise, so make sure you consider all your options when choosing the right YubiKey for the job.

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