Windows users can now protect their accounts with Yubico security keys

Yubico, a company best known for its hardware security keys, launched a new application for Microsoft's Windows operating system this week called Yubico Login.

The free software adds another layer of security to the local login process on Windows machines to better protect the system from unauthorized access.

Most Windows machines are protected by a username and password combination only. An attacker would only need to obtain this information to gain access to the computer system.

Yubico Login adds two-factor authentication capabilities to Windows devices; the software requires a security key that Yubico produces.

The company tested the solution -- then called Windows Logon Tool -- for six months before it released the final version to the public.

Yubico Login is compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 devices. It supports configurations for up to ten individual users and features fast enrollment for backup YubiKeys and recovery mechanisms for keys that get lost or stolen.

The multi-factor authentication solution is compatible with local Windows accounts only. In other words, it is not compatible with Microsoft Accounts or Enterprise accounts such as Azure Active Directory or Active Directory. Yubico notes that it has solutions for the latter but no active solution that works with Microsoft Accounts.

Local Windows users enter their password on the login screen just like before but need to plug in a security key to complete the login process. Access to the system is locked if the key is not provided.

Yubico published a demo video that highlights the core features of Yubico Login:

Windows administrators and users may download the Yubico Login software for 32-bit or 64-bit versions of the Windows operating system from the Yubico website.

Installation of the application is straightforward. Yubico reminds users that they need to be aware of their Windows username and password before installing the software program.

Yubico changes the login prompt; it displays "Yubico Login" on the screen and requests that users enter the username and password manually. It is necessary to set up a YubiKey on the device before it protects the local account. Note that you can still sign in to Windows using the username and password even if no YubiKey is configured on the system.

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