Enabling Two-Factor Authentication on iCloud Accounts

One feature that I love with macOS Sierra that has come as a total shock to me is the ability to unlock my MacBook with my Apple Watch. The reason it is such a surprise is that I never thought it would be something that I would make much use of. After all, how difficult is it to enter a password? Not at all, especially when you find yourself carrying out this action multiple times daily. The muscle memory involved with typing the same sequence of character repeatedly speeds the whole process up.

Yet when I sit down at my desk and lift the lid on my laptop, seeing my desktop within just a couple of seconds never fails to make me smile just a little.

In order to activate this feature, there is a requirement to enable something called Two-factor authentication, a process which I will outline below. This is not to be confused with Two-step verification released in 2014 amidst the furore over various celebrities having their iCloud accounts compromised. With Two-step verification, logging into some (not all) iCloud resources prompted the user to input a code, sent to an iOS device logged in with the same iCloud account. Rushed into production, it was hit and miss and always seen to be a stop-gap whilst a more robust solution was developed.

Two-factor authentication is onle accessible on devices that you trust. Signing into a device for the first time prompts you to enter a password and a six-digit code that is automatically displayed on any trusted devices. I use it daily and so far, I find that it works well. It shows the approximate location of the sign-in attempt and has added automated voice calls as a backup method for sending the code.

You will find a summary of the intricacies of Two-Factor Authentication here as well as a guide on how to set it up, however if you wish to just set it up quickly, follow the steps below:

iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch with iOS 9 and later:

  • Go to Settings -> iCloud -> press your Apple ID
  • Press Password and Security
  • Press Turn On Two-Factor Authentication

Mac with OS X El Capitan and later

  • Go to System Preferences -> iCloud -> Account Details
  • Click Security
  • Click Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

It's important to note that if you still use two-step verification, or have configured this in the past and it is still active, you will need to disable it in order for two-factor authentication to be enabled.

A list of FAQ's can be found here relating to 2FA which are worth reading.