Securing Your Google Account With A USB Security Key

Few years ago the only way to secure online account was creating a robust password, that was obviously risky because if somebody could guess password they will have access to that account then companies like Google and Microsoft added 2-step authentication that added a layer of security to you accounts. You had to take your password like before but you also had to type a code that will be sent to you mobile before you are logged in.

To enhance the security of one's online data most of web companies like Google mail, Dropbox, WordPress, Evernote and Microsoft currently support two-step authentication. When you enable 2-step authentication, any other person will never be able to get into your online account even when they are aware of password to your account– unless they physical have access to your mobile phone.

The verification code required for logging into a online account for which 2-step verification has been enabled can be them sent to your mobile phone via a text message or a voice call or generated using a mobile app – like Google Authenticator or Authy. The latter option however will not work if the mobile phone associated with your account is outside the coverage area where you don't have access to you mobile internet(like when you are in a foreign country). You can use backup codes in such a situation.

I've already written a post on How to enable 2-step verification to your Google Account.

2-step verification Simplified using USB key

Here is one more option that makes relieves you from cumbersome process of logging into a 2-factor enabled account Google. Instead of using backup codes or generating the authentication code, you can signed-in automatically without having any codes, using a hardware based authenticator that can be inserted into a USB port on your computer. The option works for both Google and Google Apps accounts.

How to attach USB security key to your Google account

  1. First step is to get a Yubico key which is the cheapest one from many options available.
  2. Then next step is to associate the USB security key with your Google Account. Go to myaccount.google.com, type your login id and password after logging in click on 2-step verification and then switch to the Security Keys tab. Click on Register Device button and then insert the USB key into the computer to attach it to your account.
  3. Once registered, you can use your USB security key to log into your Google Account from any other desktop or laptop computer any time you want without requiring your the mobile phone.
  4. Simply open gmail.com, type in your username and password, click the Sign-in button and then insert the USB key. The lights will blink on the your USB key, then you need to tap on the golden button once and it will instantly log you into the account. Internally, the key generates the authentication codes that are sent to Google servers and you are logged in.

You can also associate multiple Google Accounts with the same USB key which can be a huge time saver for some users. The USB security keys require no software or any installation and they are compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS and Linux computers. They need no batteries, they are tiny like a regular USB thumb drive but also rigid.

USB Security Keys make 2-factor authentication painless but you can only use them inside Google Chrome on desktop and laptop computers. They doesn't work with other browsers. You’ll still have to rely on SMS messages, or the authenticator app, for logging into Google on your mobile phones or in browsers like Firefox and Opera.

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