What is a Yubikey and Which One is Right for me? | Getting Started

Which Yubikey is right for me
Which Yubikey is right for me

Hi, my name is Pete Matheson, welcome to the blog, where we are on a mission today to protect you, your partners, kids, friends, and families - all of you with your online.

It's the modern equivalent of check yourself before you wreck yourself!


If you are like me, you are putting an ungodly amount of trust in the online system right now. Bank accounts, investment accounts, pensions, google drive, one drive, dropbox, amazon, social media - there is just so much of our digital lives sat online.

Does anyone remember the simpler days of MySpace and Geocities? I think MySpace was probably the first real social website where we were encouraged to start sharing our personal information online, our music tastes, who our friends are, remember when you could choose something like your top 5 friends on Myspace and have their picture on your home page? How cruel was that !? haha.

It is more important than ever to make sure you are being secure online, and whilst there are things like 2 Factor Authentication, which is where you enter your username, your password, and then a second password, which is normally sent to you via text or generated from an app that sits on your phone.

These are still inherently insecure. Because text messages can be intercepted, and the apps that generate all of those 2FA codes could also be targeted.

The Yubikey is one answer to solving these problems because it basically works like a physical key for entering your house. However, instead of your physical house, we're locking your digital house, which is your computer, laptop, phone, or perhaps, just your password manager or email account.

So in this post, we're going to look at what these Yubikeys are and which one is right for you.

First, there is one really important thing that I'd like you to go and do right now, because these posts and videos are really close to my heart and I'm seeing so many stories today of people getting targeted online, hacked, and falling for other scams, and it is SO important that other people see myvideo's as well, not just you.

So please head over to my channel, do click on the like button down below the video as a personal favour, I'd really appreciate that. And if you're not already, then consider subscribing to the channel for more, perhaps even share this onto your own social networks too, and we can all go through a journey of, well, check yourself, before you wreck yourself, foo.


So first up, what is a Yubikey?

Well, it stands for Ubiquitous Key, basically a fancy word for one key to rule them all. haha.

It is meant to be one security key, also protected by a pin number, that will grant you access to computers, phones, networks, and online services with a simple touch.

It's designed to be secure, but also usable because the challenge with online security today is that it gets so complicated, that it just falls apart and we end up not using it because it makes everything too difficult to get to.

Did anyone else experience that same defining moment in their childhood where they realised they really cared about a computer on wheels? Yeah, Me neither.

The Yubikey is something which you keep with you, like a front door key to your house, and you use it each time you need to login to your computer or sign in to an app or something that holds a lot of sensitive information, like a password manager.

These things typically cost between say, £35 or £60 pounds each, which is about 50 to 85 dollars.


How you use these depends on which one you have, so let's take a quick look at each of these keys and the differences between them.

First we have the 5 Nano which is a straight USB connection, and then the 5C Nano which is the smaller USB-C type, and these are basically absolutely tiny devices that are designed to really be left in your device at all times.

So if like me, you have a desktop PC or a Mac that's not a laptop, which is permanently sat there in your house, these are probably the keys you'll be looking for. [these aren't the droids you're looking for]

For portable laptops then you'll likely want one of 2 keys, which again come in USB or USB C, and these are the YubiKey 5 NFC, and the YubiKey 5C NFC - and these are probably the most common, and yes they do also have NFC built into them, so if you are using a device that supports NFC, say a mobile phone, then these are what you're looking for - just carry them around with you on your keychain and then you just pop them in whenever you need to authenticate.

Lastly, there is an oddly shaped device, which again you can keep on your keychain, and this is the Yubikey 5ci. It has no NFC, but does have 2 different connectors, both a lightning as well as USB C. So that will work with basically an iPhone, and then a USB-C Macbook.

Now there is also one final key which is much cheaper at around £20, or rather $30, and that is the Security Key NFC by Yubico. I don't have one of these personally, but these are more affordable versions if all you want to do is secure some specific online services such as your Password Manager, or your Google or Microsoft accounts. Though a note here, that LastPass doesn't work with these cheaper keys.

Side note, and for that reason and many more on why you shouldn't be using LastPass, then check out this video.

If you are wanting to spend money on something you know will work, then don't get those cheaper versions, pay up, and get the newer version 5 keys, as they do support so many more use cases.

Now, those are all of the different keys, but you're probably wondering and maybe now a little confused on what to do.

If you're anything like me then you might have a desktop PC which has like, all types of USB, a Laptop that has only USB C, and a phone which currently is Lightning because, well, Apple. And so I can't have one key that fits all of my needs.

Actually, having one key isn't really a great place to be, because that would be like having one front door key for your house, or your car. You wouldn't have just one. You'd have a spare just in case you lost one.

So all you need to do is get whichever keys you need and then just add those into the various accounts of the things that you want to protect.

On that topic - I'm going to be making a few more videos about how you protect your specific logins and password managers because otherwise, this will turn into yet another half-hour monstrosity of a post, but for now, all I would recommend is to decide which keys you will need, and head down to the links down below to purchase, if you do use those links then that really helps the YouTube channel and tells me that you want to see more videos around this topic.

Also if you're not already using a password manager then I'll leave some links down below for a discount when signing up for either a 1Password Personal or a 1Password Family subscription, so check those out too if you're not already using a password manager.

About the author
Pete Matheson

Pete Matheson

Lifelong Tips, Tricks & Tech Reviews. Sign up to see behind the scenes of a 160k+ Subscriber YouTube Channel.

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