You can now use your iPhone or iPad, running iOS 10 or later, as a physical security key for securely logging into your Google account as part of the Advanced Protection Program for two-factor authentication.
Android users have had this feature on their smartphones since last year, but now Apple product owners can also use this advanced, phishing-resistant form of authentication as an alternative to a physical security key.
Adding extra security later of two-step authentication is one of the more essential steps you can take to secure your online accounts, which makes it harder for attackers to log in to your account, especially when they steal your password.
"According to a study we [Google] released last year, people who exclusively used security keys to sign into their accounts never fell victim to targeted phishing attacks," said Shuvo Chatterjee, Product Manager at Google's Advanced Protection Program.
Google recently updated its 'Google Smart Lock' app for iPhones that can now turn your iOS device into a physical security key—a tiny device that cryptographically generates tokens to confirm your identity to a website instead of requiring you to receive secret tokens over insecure communication channels e.g., email and SMS.
"Security keys use public-key cryptography to verify your identity and URL of the login page, so that an attacker can't access your account even if they have your username or password."
The app stores your private keys in the iPhone's secure enclave, a separate processor inside modern iPhones that handles biometric information such as your fingerprint, Face ID, and other cryptographic data—that is why it's only available on iOS 10 and above.
Setup is relatively simple.
To get started, you first need to install the Smart Lock app on your iOS device, pair your phone with your laptop over Bluetooth to set the phone as a security key for your Google account, and then enroll in Google's Advanced Protection Program.
Now, whenever you try to sign in to a Google service on the Chrome web browser with your username and password, you will be prompted to open the Smart Lock app on your iPhone and confirm the sign-in, and of course, you need to have Bluetooth enabled on both devices.
After activating this, you are also recommended registering a backup security key to your account, just in case you lose your phone.