5 of the Best Hardware Security Keys for Two-Factor Authentication

Two Factor Authentication Keys

No matter what you use the Internet for, it is almost impossible to navigate it without maintaining dozens of accounts. With the proliferation of cloud storage, online accounts have become even more important. People store their life’s worth of data on OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

One sure way to safeguard your master key(s) is to store them on a hardware device with two-factor authentication. This is an extra security defense against potential intruders. Like hardware crypto wallets, hardware security keys are the size of USB memory sticks, providing protection against phishing, keystroke logging, and hacking.

Here are some of the best hardware security keys for two-factor authentication.

1. Kensington VeriMark Fingerprint Key

Flagship smartphones are not the only mobile devices to employ the convenience and security of fingerprint technology. Vastly cheaper, at around $40, the Kensington VeriMark Fingerprint Key holds FIDO U2F certification, suitable for integration into larger corporate environments.

Kensington Verimark Fingerprint Key

Up to 10 different users can store their fingerprints so that many users can access the same terminal. Its usage is simple. The biometric sensors detect a user as they place a finger on the plugged-in mini device, as the Windows Hello login reads the biometric authentication.

2. Yubico YubiKey 5 Nano

If you need the tiniest 2FA hardware security key possible, without the danger of accidentally losing it, Yubico YubiKey 5 Nano is the one product to get. Not much larger than a fingernail, it can still be inserted into a USB port. It works seamlessly on all major operating systems: Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as Google Chrome.

Yubico Yubikey 5 Nano

The tiny key holds all major security protocols and certifications: FIDO2, FIDO U2F, OATH-HOTP, OATH-TOTP, Yubico OTP, OpenPGP, and Smart card (PIV). However, due to its size, it’s best to have a small box to keep it in. For travel, an inside of a smartphone’s cover slot would do the trick. Additionally, if you have one of the more up-to-date wallets, it can easily fit into one of the wallet’s memory slots.

3. YubiKey 5Ci

For users who need both USB-C and Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, YubiKey 5Ci represents a hybrid with both connections on each side of the key stick. Fortified with robust fiberglass and having a keyring hole in the middle, it is easy to add it to your home’s key set.

Yubikey 5ci

Like all Yubico security keys, it features all the protocols and certificates found in the Nano variant. Unfortunately, its dual connectivity makes it one of the more expensive 2FA key solutions, usually at around $70.

4. Yubico YubiKey 5 NFC

Continuing the esteemed Yubico lineup of security keys, this variant is wireless, using NFC (near-field communication) protocol. It represents a very short-range wireless solution, at around 4cm (1 ½ inches), which is ideally suited for a security key placed right next to a computer or a mobile device. No matter whether your device works on Android, Windows, Linux, macOS, or iOS, it only needs to be NFC-compatible.

Yubico Yubikey 5nfc

For that purpose, make sure to check your device’s NFC compatibility before opting for YubiKey 5. Another bonus is that it is not only waterproof but just as cheap as non-wireless keys at around $40.

5. CryptoTrust OnlyKey

More than just a hardware security key, this model also serves the role of a password manager. This makes it less compact than the competitors. However, one can’t fault it for having a reasonably-sized numpad. This feature also makes it ideal for circumventing keystroke loggers, as only typing to access the passwords will be done on this key.

Cryptotrust Onlykey

In addition to being a password manager, it also supports encrypted backup and self-destruct – wiping out data after a certain number of incorrect password attempts. Its 2FA protocols include TOTP, Yubico OTP, and FIDO 2 U2F.

Hardware Vaults Instill Responsibility

It is often the case that people don’t take the task of safeguarding their online data seriously. As something that can be deleted, rewritten, and copied at will, digital content is overlooked compared to physical items we can touch with our own hands.

In addition to providing a much-needed security-layer to your online valuables, hardware security keys make you view your digital footprint with the scrutiny it deserves.

Image Credit: Kensington, Yubico, OnlyKey

Rahul Nambiampurath
Rahul Nambiampurath

Rahul Nambiampurath started his career as an accountant but has now transitioned into working full-time in the tech space. He is an ardent fan of decentralized and open source technologies. When he's not writing, he's usually busy making wine, tinkering with his android device, or hiking some mountains.

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