You Can Now Protect Your Google Accounts With a Physical Key

By Eric Limer on at

Two-step authentication is super important. It's also super annoying. To try and ease the pain—and make logins even more secure—Google will now let you use a USB security key to verify yourself instead of having a code sent to your phone.

The new feature works with a special kind of USB key. You can't just use anything you've got lying around; you need something that's FIDO Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) compliant. Instead of typing in a code from your phone, you just plug in one of these bad boys and press the button, which prompts a cryptographic back-and-forth with Google's servers. That means you not only get the security of having a physical second-factor (like your phone) but also that the site you're logging into is actually Google. There's no way for hackers to fake this.

There are a few catches though. You'll have to buy your own key, and it only works on Google Chrome or Chrome OS. That said, it's maybe not for the average user, but it's a good option for the hyper security conscious and a step towards replacing annoying, insecure passwords all together. Once you've got yourself a key, you can enable it as a second factor in your Google Account security settings. That, and feel like a secret agent when you plug it in. [Google]