How does Security Code Autofill work on iOS?

Security Code Autofill

Security Code Autofill also works between Macs and iOS devices, thanks to Continuity

This new iOS 12 feature makes it a lot easier to use two-factor authentication (2FA) on iPhones and iPads. It’s called Security Code Autofill, and new iOS 12 users may need a little insight into how the feature works.

How Apple describes Security Code Autofill

SMS one-time passcodes will appear automatically as AutoFill suggestions, so you never have to worry about quickly memorizing them or typing them again.”

Security Code Autofill

How Security Code Autofill works on iOS

What is two-factor authentication (2FA)?

Typically, when you try to access an online account or service you’ll be asked to enter your passcode, identify yourself (by account name or email), and (perhaps) provide additional memorable information.

If your account or service uses 2FA, you’ll also be required to enter a passcode that will be sent to you in an SMS using the telephone number you defined when creating the account. The idea is that it combines something you have (your iPhone) with something you know (the password and 2FA codes).

The idea is that this additional layer of security makes it much harder for criminals to undermine security on your account. This means that you must be in possession of the device to access the account if it is protected by 2FA and must also hold any other relevant passcodes to get to use the service.

The problem is that many consumers find the process overly-complex and a little frustrating.

How does Security Code Autofill work on iOS?

To encourage people to at least use 2FA protection, Apple has chosen to make the process much simpler.

Apple says that iOS and macOS use local data detector heuristics to work out whether an incoming message carries a security code. Security Code Autofill will then automate the process of taking that number from the SMS and entering it into the relevant part of the app or service you want to use.

If you synchronize SMS messages with your MacBook or iMac, the existing Text Message Forwarding feature will push codes from the iPhone and let you enable Security Code AutoFill in Safari on your Mac.

Image c/o: Photo by GotCredit

What is the process using Security Code Autofill?

Here is what happens when using Security Code Autofill:

  • When you access a service/account you will be sent a 2FA code
  • When the code is received you can tap in the code entry box of the service you want to use and you will see a note appear in your QuickType bar just above the keyboard. This will include the code and say “From Message”.
  • To type the code into the box just tap that item in the strip and it will automatically be entered for you.
  • You get into your account.

What about developers?

Security Code Autofill isn’t just about Apple, but for any app or service developer working on iOS. Apple delivered an extensive session explaining these features at WWDC 2018. You can watch this here.

How safe is Security Code Autofill?

There may be some situations in which the feature may not be as safe as remembering the information yourself, but in most cases common sense suggestions (such as checking the legitimacy of the site you are on and the 2FS message you receive) should keep you safe. As should use of complex passwords for your most sensitive accounts.

Looking for more tips? You’re in the right place — click here.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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