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yubikey sharing
Olga Weis Olga Weis Last updated Sep 23, 2022

How to use a YubiKey remotely

Have you ever heard of small hardware devices called USB security dongles? Even if you do not have one of these things, you may know that USB security dongles (or tokens) are designed to protect your online accounts from being accessed by hackers.

In this article, we’re going to consider one of the most popular USB tokens available today - the YubiKey. Read on to learn how this dongle works and how to access it remotely when a direct connection is not an option.

What is a YubiKey used for?

The Yubico company has created YubiKey dongles to make it simpler for users to protect their online accounts from unauthorized access. Typing your password and pressing the button on a YubiKey device is all you should do to prove your identity and successfully log in to a personal or business account.

YubiKey dongle types

Relying on the YubiKey two-factor authentication method is much more convenient than receiving a code via email or getting it from a specific authentication application. A YubiKey generates unique long codes that ensure enhanced security of your online account.

Can a YubiKey be shared?

Now that you know how easy it is to protect your account with a YubiKey, you may wonder if it’s possible to use the dongle remotely when you don’t have it at hand.

Luckily, there’s a software application that’s designed to do just that. It’s called FlexiHub. The app will help you share one YubiKey with several of your colleagues while working remotely from another city or country.

Or you can use it to log in to your account from an office machine if having the dongle plugged into your remote home PC.

The scenarios are many.

Remote access to a YubiKey device

FlexiHub is powered by an advanced port redirection technology that allows virtualizing USB and COM ports and devices connected to them. Thanks to the outstanding capabilities of the app, you can attach a YubiKey to your computer and the dongle will appear on a remote one in a matter of seconds.

How to share a YubiKey with FlexiHub

To make your hardware key accessible remotely, take these simple steps:

  • 1.
    Create a FlexiHub account on the app's official website.
    create a FlexiHub account
  • 2.
    Download the FlexiHub application and install it on your computer.
    download flexihub
  • 3.
    Start the app and log in to your account.
    FlexiHub Login
  • 4.
    Connect a Yubikey dongle that you want to share to your computer's USB port. Share a Yubikey dongle The device will appear in FlexiHub's interface as the one ready to be connected to a remote machine. blank
  • 5.
    Install FlexiHub on your remote computer. blank
  • 6.
    Start the software and log in to your account. You will see the YubiKey in the list of devices available for remote connection. blank
  • 7.
    Click Connect next to the device name.
    Connect a Yubikey dongle

This is it! From this moment forward you can access and use the Yubikey on the remote PC like there was a direct connection to the device. Also, you can disconnect it via FlexiHub at any time.

What’s more, FlexiHub lets you virtualize YubiKey to share it with a virtual machine. The software is fully compatible with real, virtual, and cloud desktops. For example, you can plug a YubiKey into your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer and forward the device to a Hyper-V, XenDesktop, Parallels, VirtualBox, or VMWare virtual machine. All it takes is a couple of mouse clicks and a reliable internet connection.

Initial setup of a YubiKey dongle

When using a YubiKey dongle for the first time, you should do the following to set up your online account authentication with the device.

Step 1. Plug the YubiKey into your computer.

Step 2. Open the instructions on the website of Yubico.

Step 3. Select your dongle (click on it).

Step 4. Select the service or account you are going to use the dongle with. (YubiKey works well with LastPass, Gmail, Dropbox, Instagram, and a number of other popular services).

Here’s how you do this with a YubiKey and a Google account.
  • There should be a Google account in the list of services supported by your YubiKey token. Select it and open the page with instructions.
  • Follow them to add the USB YubiKey dongle to your Google account. select a security key for a Google account
  • Register your key to work with your account by pressing the button on the device. YubiKey registration
  • Once the key is registered you are good to start using it to sign in to your Google account. Name Security Key

YubiKey: supported protocols

One of the greatest advantages a YubiKey has is the ability to work with a wide array of applications and services both old and new. This becomes possible thanks to supporting different authentication protocols like OTP, OpenPGP 3, smart card authentication, FIDO U2F, and WebAuthn/FIDO2.

  • One-time password authentication (OTP) is most commonly used in legacy software. This method means the creation of single-use passwords for each login.
  • Thanks to the ability to work with commonly-used smart card drivers, YubiKey supports a smart card authentication method.
  • Another option offered by a YubiKey is authentication via the FIDO U2F protocol, which allows the security dongle to be the authentication provider with no need for central authentication service.

Frequently Asked Questions

The ease of use, trouble-free migration, and support for remote access software are the biggest advantages of a YubiKey dongle.
So what happens if you lose your YubiKey when not having an additional security key? Probably the easiest and fastest solution, in this case, is to consider protecting your account with another two-factor authentication method.
Share the dongle over the network
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