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The best USB security keys for 2021

Protecting your data can involve digital and physical tools, with one of the most powerful being a USB security key. Our favorite is the YubiKey 5 NFC, for its ease of use, complete authentication protocol support, and portability. But it’s not the only USB security key we like. There are plenty of great options for those with grander budgets or more specific needs.

USB security keys like these can help log you into computers and protect your profiles, email, browser history, and more, with an extra layer of security that’s innately hard to hack.

If you want to take further steps to protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure you have a robust antivirus solution and consider powerful parental control software to keep your kids safe online.

Best USB security keys

The best

YubiKey 5 and NFC series

Yubico’s series 5 NFC keys work well with both USB-A and USB-C ports and Near Field Communication. The NFC tech means that instead of plugging it in, you can just tap the key against the right devices to activate the authentication. This feature is particularly handy when using smartphones. The key works with iOS and Android, so it has more usability than the average USB key, which doesn’t typically work with phones.

The Yubico 5 NFC also supports many authentication protocols beyond the common FIDO (U2F) and FIDO2/WebAuthn, as well as Smart Cards and OTP if you want alternative or more open-source security options. This feature makes the 5 NFC ideal for those who need to manage hundreds of services with a single key or wish to secure individual browsers and operating systems. We also like the simple design, including a small hole you can loop a string or chain through for more comfortable transportation.

The rest

Thetis Fido U2F security key

The highly-affordable Thetis USB-A and Bluetooth key is a reliable model that will work with all FIDO U2F compatible data — this includes Chrome browsers; MacOS and Linux; services like Dropbox, Salesforce, and Facebook; and mobile devices with Bluetooth Low Energy. It does lack email compatibility, however.

The Thetis Fido U2F has a particularly excellent design, made out of an aluminum alloy with a flip-around system that lets you hide the USB port for better protection in your pocket or case. A one-year warranty is included on this model, making it ideal for those seeking a reliable key at a low cost.

Google Titan security key

Google released its proprietary security key line in the fall of 2018 with options for all kinds of people. Our favorite is the Bluetooth/NFC/USB-A model, which gives you multiple options for connecting. Google also has a USB-C version of the Titan key and more affordable models, depending on budget and desired features, including Google’s most robust security measures, the Advanced Protection Program, or APP.

While their ABS composition is not as flashy as some other keys, Google’s Titan keys offer PC and Mac access, and they’re compatible with iOS and Android smartphones, as well as any Google phones, tablets, and anything running APP or Google Chrome. These keys are great, but we are downgrading them a little due to past vulnerabilities in some low-energy Bluetooth Titan keys, which led to a hasty recall from Google. These problems are now in the past, but it wasn’t a good look back in mid-2019.

Yubico security key

This Yubico USB-A key is similar to our top pick, but it’s more affordable and doesn’t come with NFC technology. If you don’t need to use a key on your phone or another mobile device, you can save some money with this model. The design includes that loop-friendly hole we like and is both water- and crush-resistant. That gold circle you see is how this particular key is activated — just insert the key and tap the circle to activate it. Easy!

SoloKeys USB-C

SoloKeys, an indie developer who shines in creating open-source FIDO2 security keys, is ideal for users concerned with security and who want to get a detailed layout of how the software is functioning. FIDO2 makes crypto-based logins for every website you visit and doesn’t back them up to a server—you have the only way of accessing them. This feature is a standout for mobile and desktop computing security. You can pick from several different models, but we love the SoloKeys USB-C version. The future of ports lies not with the current standard of USB-A ports, but instead with the up and coming USB-C ports, so it behooves you to buy models that support USB-C to ensure usage longevity.

CryptoTrust OnlyKey

While the majority of systems only have one activation button, OneKey has six. Each of them adds an extra layer of security, providing you with additional options and steps to deck out your security system with several different password mechanisms. This detailed design makes OneKey stand out from the competition. Each of the six buttons has two press options (long press and short press), increasing your input capabilities to 12 possible combinations.

You can set a password and PIN for each of these 12 options, bumping you up to a robust three-factor authentication. Plus, OneKey can store a maximum of 24 passwords, URLs, user names, and OTP accounts. The CryptoTrust OnlyKey is compatible with several authentication processes such as FIDO2 and Yubikey OTP2, which gives its users even more security. You’ll spend extra time jumping through all these security hoops, but it certainly optimizes your safety measures as much as possible.

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