Google Titan Security Keys Analysis 2020

Google Titan Security Keys

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A few days ago, Google brought its Google Titan security keys to the USA.

They are small keys with USB, NFC and Bluetooth that, in a nutshell, serve to add an additional security key when accessing our accounts.

They are a two-step authentication system, only that instead of receiving a code in the mobile or in an app.

It consists of inserting a key in the USB port of the computer or connecting it via Bluetooth.

In Techcoderguru we have had the opportunity to access these keys to test them for ourselves, see how they are configured on both PC and mobile phones and how they work in practice.

This has been our experience.

The first thing: what is included and how they are configured

Currently, Google sells a single version of Google Titan security keys.

Namely: a pack with a key with USB A and NFC and a key with Bluetooth, designed for laptops and smartphones.

Also included is a micro-USB charging cable (for the Bluetooth key) and a USB A to USB type C adapter.

This allows you to use the keys on computers without USB A ports.

It is important because the Titan security key with USB type C is not yet for sale.

The size of these keys is reduced.

Google Titan Security Keys Configuration
On the left the version with USB A and NFC; on the right the version with Bluetooth.

The version with USB A measures 43.9 x 20.8 x 3.1 mm and the version with Bluetooth 47.3 x 29.3 x 8.3 mm.

Neither weight, they are quite light devices and it is appreciated.

Especially if you plan to add them to the keychain.

The finishes are good and are resistant.

But being frank, the design is not something that matters too much in a product of this category.

The only thing I did not like is that the Bluetooth key has to be charged using a micro-USB.

When the USB type C is the port that is being standardized.

Beyond that, what matters most to us is its compatibility.

Google Titan security keys work in browsers that support W3C web authentication, including ChromeFirefoxOpera and Edge.

On Android phones, it is necessary to have Android 5.0 Lollipop and the latest version of Google Play Services.

For iPhone and iPad, meanwhile, you have to have the latest version of Google Smart Lock installed and use the Bluetooth connection or the NFC.

As for compatible services, it is imperative that these services comply with FIDO standards.

The list is extensive and includes the services of Google, Facebook, eBay, Dropbox, Amazon, Apple, PayPal or Twitter, among many others.

ios titan security key

The only way to know if the one we want to protect is compatible is to look for your authentication options in two steps and check if it supports security keys.

The configuration process is similar in all services but varies from one to another.

So it is a matter of following the instructions offered by each platform.

For that matter, we will show how they configured in the Google account and on Twitter.

Because it is not as simple as inserting the key into the USB port and that’s it.

But you have to configure it service by service.

It’s tedious, but once done you won’t have to do it again.

How to configure Google Titan security keys

To configure the Google Titan security keys on Google, the first thing to do is open the browser.

Access the security key registry and log in with the Google account we want to protect. 

Choose “Next” and insert the key.

After detection, we press the gold button in the upper area and wait a moment for the platform to recognize the key.

Google titan security key

Google will show us a pop-up to “See the brand and model of your security key“.

So click on “Allow“.

Important not to take more than the account, because then the process gets cancel.

Afterwards, Google will recognize the account and will ask us to give the key a name.

For that matter, we will sweep home and call it “Techcoderguru”.

And ready, the key is set and ready to use.

To replicate the process on Twitter, the first thing to do is access this link.

Then activate one of the two two-step authentication systems that are available and are not the keys, see SMS or authentication app.

For that matter, we will use the SMS option, but you can use the one you prefer.

When we have configured the authentication in two steps with the SMS, we return to the previous link and click on “Security key“.

Click on “Start” and enter the security key when we see what you can see under these lines:

When we have inserted it, we press the golden button to recognize it.

Then we do it again to confirm the key as an authentication method.

It will tell us that everything is ready and we can start using the security key.

How to use the security keys on the mobile

These keys are somewhat “layered” in terms of mobile since the applications are compatible with them (Twitter, without going any further, it is not).

Where do they work?

mobile titan security keys

In the web versions of the platforms.

For example, if you open the Twitter app you will enter as usual, without asking for the security key.

If you log out of the app and start it again, the key will not be able to use it. 

You will have to resort to the other system that you have configured.

In which in our case was to receive a code via SMS.

However, if you access twitter.com from the browser and log in, you can bring the security key to the back of the mobile (if it has NFC).

Or use the Bluetooth key, which will be used for any mobile.

Remember, always from the browser, not from the apps we download from Google Play and App Store.

If your mobile phone has NFC you do not have to do anything.

Since the key will recognize as soon as you bring it to the back.

If you do not have NFC, you will have to use the Bluetooth key, in which case it will have to be configured from the beginning.

It is a simple process.

Another option, if you do not want to use Bluetooth.

Your mobile phone does not have NFC, is to insert the USB key into the mobile charging port using the USB A – USB C adapter in the box.

Let’s assume we want to use Bluetooth.

When we log in to a service in which we have previously configured a security key, the window will automatically appear to proceed to configure the Bluetooth key.

Select “Use Bluetooth security key”.

Then “Start” and press and hold the Bluetooth key button for five seconds, until the blue LED starts to flash.

The name of our key will appear and click on it.

When you ask us for the PIN, click on “Continue” and turn the key over.

There is the six-digit PIN that we will have to enter in the pop-up.

The security key is verified once it is completed.

We can use it to log in to the web version of the platform that we have configured with the push of the button.

In case of any doubt, the USB A / NFC key works on both Android and iOS (from iOS 13.3).

So it is not strictly necessary to use the Bluetooth key.

In fact, if your phone has NFC, it is a bit absurd to configure the Bluetooth key when the NFC key works exactly the same and is faster.

The experience with Google Titan Security Keys

The experience with Google’s Titan keys has been very positive.

They work really well and the setup process is the easiest.

It is true that it can be a bit tedious because you have to do it from service to service.

But it is something that you only have to do once and in any browser.

Once the keys are configured, log in to the device that is or using the browser that is, just enter the key.

Press the gold button and voila! , the session started.

This is something that has been really comfortable for me.

The configuration process is in Chrome on my desktop.

But my default browser is Chromium-base Edge and I also work with the laptop.

In addition, the vast majority of services I use on a daily basis, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and Dropbox services, are compatible with these keys.

So I have not had incompatibility problems.

I have been missing Instagram, for example.

Obviously, the greater or lesser compatibility will depend on the services that each person uses.

But in general, if you want to protect your Google account (person or company), Microsoft or any moderately known service.

These keys will work and add that extra layer of security.

As for the experience with the mobile, the feeling is rather bittersweet.

Google Titan Security Key with the new iPhone?

In my case, I use an iPhone 11 Pro (which has NFC) and a Google Pixel 2 XL (which also has NFC).

So no problem when signing in to the web versions of the services.

The problem is that native apps, which are the ones I use most, are not compatible with security keys.

It is not the fault of the keys themselves.

But of the applications themselves, which still do not accept this security system.

Precisely because of this, where I have found the most useful is on the computer.

The mechanism is as simple as putting the key in the USB, logging in and unplugging the keys.

Once you log in, you can remove the key without a problem and save.

Now, I don’t think there are devices specifically for the “average user”.

But for those people who are looking for an extra layer of security.

That is if an “average user” wants to use them because he worries about security, perfect, but you can live without them perfectly.

Two-step authentication can be done with authentication apps such as LastPass or Google Authenticator or with an SMS.

These keys solve the problem in case your phone lost or stolen, since (unless your keys are lost or stolen too, which already be bad luck) you can always access your accounts from any device.

On the other hand, I can’t stop thinking about the durability of the USB A / NFC model.

mobile google titan security keys

Buy your Titan Security Key Today

If you put the key in the keyring and put it in your pocket, it is possible that the USB port will scratch and deteriorate, and yes, it is true that the NFC will always remain or use the Bluetooth model.

But it would not be too much added a small case, even if it is silicone, to cover the port when the key is not being used.

It is a detail that does not affect the experience of the key itself, but that I did not want to miss.

Be that as it may, for $62 that are worth the two keys you get some hidden devices, lightweight, that work really well and that are compatible with most popular services.

Of course, they are not the only options on the market, far from it.

Yubikey with USB A and NFC are worth $40 on Amazon, so just looking for a USB and NFC connection can be an alternative to contemplate.

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