Using Apple's iCloud Keychain, iOS, Mavericks

Apple [AAPL] introduced iCloud Keychain within OS X Mavericks last week. Here's how to set it up if you wish to use it, though you may choose not to do so if you don't trust online password systems like this in these post-PRISM days.

Using Apple iCloud Keychain

Setting up iCloud Keychain

iCloud Keychain lets you store Safari website user names, passwords, Wi-Fi passwords and even your credit card information in the cloud in order that you can access all these passwords from any Apple device. To be effective it is best if you run the system on your iPhone and/or iPad and your Mavericks Mac.

Setting up an iOS device

First update your software to the current version of iOS 7.

Step one

  • Settings>iCloud
  • Log-in to your iCloud account (this may also be your .Mac or Me.com account, depending on when you began using Apple ID).
  • Scroll down to Keychain, switch it to green and enter a four digit iCloud Security code -- you can choose to use the same iCloud Security Code as the PIN you use on your iPhone, or you can choose a new one.
  • I recommend you choose a new one, you'll be given a sub-menu of Advanced Options, select this and you can create an alphanumeric passcode
  • Next enter your phone number so you can receive SMS messages sent by Apple. SMS messages containing a verification code will be sent to your first device when you try to enable other devices for iCloud Keychain.

Step two

  • Settings>Safari>Passwords & AutoFill
  • You can enable names and passwords and credit cards.
  • If you wish to use iCloud Keychain with a credit card, choose Saved Credit Cards>Add Credit Card and add your information.

Setting up on the Mac

First update your software to the current version of Mavericks.

Step One

  • System Preferences>iCloud
  • Click the Keychain preference in the tick box.
  • You will be prompted to create a password to unlock your screen if your computer restarts, or goes to sleep, if you've not done so before.
  • I recommend setting this up which you can do by selecting the blue Open Security & Privacy button in the dialog box.

Step Two

  • Returning to Keychain set up you will be asked for your Apple ID password to set up iCloud Keychain. That's the iCloud account as used on your iOS device.
  • Apple will now demand you "request approval from one of your other devices using iCloud Keychain".

Step three

  • If you have no other devices using Keychain just select the 'Use Code…" button and enter your code.
  • If you have other devices set-up already simply choose the blue Request Approval button.
  • You will be sent an iCloud Keychain verification code to the phone number you associated with the account earlier.
  • Enter the verification code into the dialogue box that appears in iCloud preferences on your Mac.
  • You will also have to approve the addition of the Mac to your list of supported devices on the device with the phone number you associated with the account earlier.
  • You should also enable AutoFill within Safari preferences on your Mac.

Adding additional devices

Once you've enabled iCloud Keychain on an iOS device and your Mac you may need to set up the system on another device.

  • When you attempt to achieve this you'll be shown a message in Notification Center to let you know.
  • Click on 'View' and you open up System Preferences>iCloud and will be met with an item called Keychain which tells you the name of the device requesting approval.
  • Select 'Details', enter your Apple ID password and the device will be enabled for iCloud Keychain.

In use

Whenever you visit a website for the first time on your iOS device (or on your Mavericks Mac), iCloud Keychain will ask if you wish to save the password for that site to the system. If you do then you will automatically log into the site on your iOS device and Mavericks Mac whenever you visit that location.

Password generator

iCloud Keychain offers a feature called Password Generator. This will create random passwords, more secure than the 'password' or '1234' style passwords so many people still use, but saved automatically for you in iCloud Keychain. The only weird flaw seems to be that you need to create a temporary password first before you get the chance to implement a new one.

Some sites may not allow passwords to be automatically saved. You can override this by ensuring 'Allow Autofill' is enabled on both iOS devices and Macs.

I hope this simple guide helps you make better use of the new feature.

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