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What is iCloud keychain?

Apple's iCloud keychain is a password manager for macOS and iOS devices including Macs, iPhones and iPads. Username/password pairs, credit card information, Wi-Fi credentials, and other personal data can be stored in iCloud, and shared amongst all of your Apple devices. Your personal data are encrypted with 256-bit AES encryption, and saved in your iCloud and transferred to and from iCloud to your devices encrypted so it is very secure. The data stored in your keychain can be accessed through Safari, and some third-party Apple apps and it has just released a Chrome extension to support iCloud keychain on Chrome browser on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

If you're in Apple's ecosystem, and uses Safari as the primary web browser iCloud keychain can be a good choice for your password manager. It is offered free of charge for all of your iOS and macOS devices, and they are synced through iCloud. As all users are offered 5GB of iCloud space for free, and keychain data doesn't take up much space; you can virtually use this feature free. To use this feature, you must (1) enable 2FA on your iOS device, and also (2) enable the keychain feature.

Some of the benefits of using iCloud keychanin are:

  • Personal Data: iCloud keychain not only store username/password pair, but also store credit card details, Wi-Fi credentials, shipping address and other personal data in the cloud and sync'ed across all of your Apple devices.
  • Security: The data are stored with 256-bit AES encryption, and they are also encrypted and decrypted when transferred from iCloud to devices, which makes this a very secure platform.
  • Strong password generation: When used with Safari, you can use "suggesed password" offered by the keychain and you do not have to make up a strong password yourself.
  • Management: You will be able to add, edit and delete entries manually or automatically when used first time in Safari. You may also open the keychain "Passwords", and be able to read them in clear-text.
  • Autofill: When used with Safari, you can auto-populate username/password pair, credit card details, shipping address, and more. You may also turn this off on some devices if you're sharing the device with someone else.

Some of the disadvantages of using iCloud keychain as a password manager are:

  • Compatibility: iCloud keychain is only limited to Apple devices, and cannot be used with Windows PCs or Android phones.
  • Safari: The autofill only works with Safari browser, and will not work with any other web browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge.
  • 2FA: The keychain currently does not offer 2FA although it was announced that it will be supported in iOS 14. We have yet to see when 2FA will be supported in iCloud keychain.
  • Weak password detection: The keychain does detect duplicate passwords used on multiple websites, but it does not detect weak passwords.

Updated on 1/31/20021**: Apple has released an official version of iCloud Passwords Chrome extension that you can download and install on your Chrome browser to use iCloud keychain on any platform that support Chrome. This is great news as all of the "password manager" features available on Safari are now available on Google Chrome.

Conclusion

Apple's iCloud keychain is an excellent choice for a password manager if you're only using Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Macs. Although it doesn't offer all the bells and whistles of features offered by third-party password managers, it is very secure and has an ample set of features that are necessary to all password managers. However, if you're using a hybrid of Macs, PCs, iOS and Android, iCloud keychain may not be a good solution for you as it can only be used in Apple's ecosystem.

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