Did you set up two-factor authentication for your Apple ID? Do not lose that recovery key (plus how to replace it)

Did you set up two-factor authentication for your Apple ID? Do not lose that recovery key (plus how to replace it)
In the wake of the iCloud debacle, Apple made some subtle changes to how people can (or cannot) log into their services using an Apple ID, and the company started pushing a bit more prominently the option of activating two-factor authentication.  Two-factor authentication is essentially adding a second password layer before gaining access to an account and its various services.  Even if someone with nefarious plans is able to get past the initial password protections, the second layer is almost impossible to get past (unless you use stupid passwords). In the case of Owen Williams at The Next Web, that was what happened to his account.

The security measures stopped the intrusion and locked his account as designed.  Williams started getting notifications on his Apple connected products warning that they could not connect to his account due to the aforementioned measures. When Williams went to unlock his account, the Apple support page directed him to “iForgot” where he discovered there was no way to regain access to his account without the two-factor recovery key that was supplied when he first set up two-factor authentication (also referred to as “2A”).

The recovery key is a critical, actually, it is the critical piece of information you need if you find yourself with a locked Apple account due to a security problem. During the two-factor sign-up process Apple stresses how important the recovery key is by forcing you to print it, then re-enter the key as proof that you have a copy. Then, you are supposed to put that in a secure location away from other people, but not necessarily a place you might forget.

In Williams’ case he had moved since setting up 2A, and had no idea what he had done with his recovery key. It was days that he went without access to what was essentially his digital life. After several unsuccessful attempts to find a work-around (there is none) through Apple support, Williams was scouring his iPhone’s photo albums while on hold (again), when lo-and-behold, he found his recovery key thanks to a picture he took of his computer screen many moons ago.

If your Apple ID gets locked down due to a security issue, your passwords are not valid tools for helping recover the account. Trusted devices are not an option either. The recovery key is the only way.

According to Apple, if your account is security locked, and you lose your recovery key with two-factor authentication enabled, your account is lost. Your only option is to start a fresh, as even Apple cannot help you.

Now you might be thinking, “My Apple ID is fine, and I have 2A, but I have no idea what I did with my recovery key!!” The good news is that for accounts in good standing, you can create a new recovery key to replace the old one quite easily. Just follow these steps:

  1. Go to appleid.apple.com
  2. Click on “Manage my Apple ID”
  3. Log-in with your ID and password
  4. Verify you are who you say you are with a trusted device
  5. Select “Security” on the left
  6. Select “Replace recovery key”
  7. Continue through the set-up procedure which will include printing and re-entering that key

Then it is up to you to safe-guard that information, be it by taking a picture and storing somewhere separately, or keeping the print-out in a small fire-safe. The point being that in instances of using increased security measures to protect your information, be prepared to take extra measures to protect the information you may very well need to stay connected.

references and image sources: The Next Web (1, 2)

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1 Comment

1. deewinc

Posts: 455; Member since: Feb 21, 2013

Lost my Apple password and could not reset it at all. Visit to Apple service centers could not help at all. Calling Apple USA they told me if the reset link is not sent to your email its technically impossible to recover your password. That was the end of me and Apple.

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