The most recent update to the company’s Smart Lock app on iOS allows users to use their iPhone as a physical security key (if and where two factor authentication technology is enabled).
Once it’s set up, it works like this:
If you log on to a Google service (such as Gmail) on your computer and 2FA is enabled, make sure your phone is set up as the authentication method. The app will generate a notification and send it to your iPhone, giving you a limited window of time to respond to the message.
Of interest, since this is accomplished via Bluetooth, the phone needs to be in close proximity to the computer for the notification to be received. That means that it’s an incredibly effective security measure. A hacker would need to steal both your computer and your phone in order to bypass the security and crack your accounts open.
Physical security keys are simply better than randomly generated numeric codes, which can be gotten past using brute force methods and intercepted almost as easily as passwords themselves.
As cool as the new feature is, it’s nothing new in the Android ecosystem. Android device owners have been able to use their phones as physical security keys for a while now, but kudos to Google for extending that experience and including iPhones too.
Two factor authentication (2FA) is by no means perfect, but enabling it anywhere you’re able to will go a long way toward preventing all but the most determined attacks against you. If you can use a physical security key as part of the authentication process, so much the better. It’s not a magic bullet that will keep you absolutely safe, but it will keep more than 90 percent of the attacks made against most users from succeeding, and that’s a fantastic start.