Security is an ever-evolving and increasingly important issue to which Apple is no exception. According to a report from Strategy Analytics, iCloud is the most popular cloud service in the United States -- so protecting your information with Apple is far from something that can be overlooked. In this tutorial we're going to take a look at how to setup Apple's new two-step verification system and how to recover your account if the worst happens.
What Is Two-Step Verification?
Two-Step Verification is a new security feature available for your Apple ID which adds an extra step to authenticating your account when managing your account, resetting your password and making other important changes.
In Apple's case, two-step verification means you'll need to use two of three methods to authenticate your account successfully:
- Your Password
- Recovery Key - an alphanumeric code generated during setup that you'll need to store in a physical location
- Trusted Device - a device (an iOS device with Find My iPhone enabled or another SMS-capable phone) that you'll verify during setup that can be sent a single-use, four-digit code when needed
For example, when logging in to manage your Apple ID, you'll use your password and the code sent to one of your trusted devices. When you've lost your password and want to recover it, you'll grab your recovery key and use that alongside a code from a trusted device.
Two-Step Verification replaces the old setup of using security questions and your date of birth but does introduce the recovery key which, if lost when needed, will block any attempt to recover your account. If it all sounds like an appealing upgrade in security, let's take a look at how to get it up and running!
Enabling Two-Step Verification
Before you can go about recovering our account or otherwise keeping it secure with the help of a second step, you need to step up Two-Step Verification itself.
Before we get started, you need to login and authenticate yourself with Apple at the My Apple ID site. Once you're in, simply navigate to the Password and Security section. If you have security questions, answer those before trying to continue.
Once you're authenticated with Apple, you'll notice all the regular security features available for changing, such as your password and security questions. We're only concerned with the Two-Step Verification section for the moment, so go ahead and select Get Started.
You'll be treated to a brief explanation of how Two-Step Verification works at Apple, but you'll already be armed with this information from the beginning of the tutorial. Be sure to read these steps carefully as they detail exactly what will change when verifying your account. Once you're ready, simply hit the Continue button.
Once you enable Two-Step Verification, Apple will no longer be able to reset your password. If you lose access to your password and don't have a trusted device or your the recovery key this process generates, you will lose access permanently.
If you're happy with how these changes will affect your account, click Get Started.
Now, select which devices to verify with your account to become a Trusted Device. These devices will be used as the second step of the verification process, alongside your password. When you've asked Apple to verify a trusted device, you'll receive a notification on that device with a verification code. Enter this four-digit number and hit Verify Device.
Apple also recommends you add an SMS-capable phone number. This can be used as an alternative if you don't have access to one of your trusted devices, opting to send you an SMS message as verification rather than a push notification.
Simply select your country and type in your number before hitting Next. You'll then receive a verification code to that number by SMS. Grab your phone, enter the code back into the My Apple ID site and hit Verify.
Once all phone numbers and devices you want to use are verified, select Continue.
Apple will not present you with your recovery key. This step is especially important. Make a physical note of this recovery key outside of your computer and other devices, ideally in multiple locations. This recovery key is vital in the recovery of your Apple ID if you lose your password or no longer have access to a trusted device.
Once you've stored your recovery key somewhere safe, select Continue. Then, enter your key to confirm you have access to it before hitting Confirm to continue once more.
Finally, you'll need to confirm you understand the conditions of the program. Do not ignore or skip this. Only once you've ensured you understand how this system works, select the checkbox and select Enable Two-Step Verification.
Two-Step Verification should not be enabled on your account, and you will shortly receive an email to confirm this.
Using Two-Step Verification
Now, we're going to take a look at how to actually use Two-Step Verification in a real world scenario. In this case, we're going to reset a password on our Apple ID account where both the recovery key and a trusted device is needed. If you are using Two-Step Verification to login with your password, simply ignore step 2.
Resetting your password with Two-Step Verification is started in the usual way. Head over to My Apple ID and choose the Reset your password option.
Enter your Apple ID when requested and continue.
This is where your recovery key comes into play. Type the recovery key you were given during setup (and hopefully stored in a secure, offline location) into the site and select Next.
Now, select one of the trusted devices or SMS-capable phone numbers verified during initial setup in order for a verification code to be pushed to it. If you chose a named device, this will appear in the form of a push notification. If you instead select a phone number, it will be delivered as an SMS number.
In this final step, specify a new password meeting Apple's criteria displayed in the step. When you've entered your new password, hit the Reset Password button and enjoy access to your newly-secured account.
Managing Trusted Devices and Your Recovery Key
Lost your recovery key? Bought a new iPad? Managing your trusted devices and recovery key is all done through in the Password and Security section of the My Apple ID site.
Adding a new trusted device is done exactly the same as during the initial setup stages we covered before, and removing them is simply a case of selecting the Remove option next to each listed, verified device.
Turning Off Two-Step Verification
If, at any time, you wish to turn off Two-Step Verification, you can downgrade to the traditional setup of using security questions.
Once again login to My Apple ID and again chose Password and Security. Then, select Turn off two-step verification.
Next, enter your traditional recovery information into the correct fields. This includes selecting your security questions and answers, specifying your date of birth and nominating a secondary recovery email.
Two-Step Verification will then be turned off, and recovering your password will opt for answering security questions rather than using your trusted device and recovery key setup.
In this tutorial, we've got you setup with Two-Step Verification and added another obstacle to any malicious access to your Apple ID. If you have any further questions about how the service words, Apple has an FAQ that details the system.
Hopefully, you'll only rarely have to pull out that recovery key from your bottom drawer though!