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Share a Yubikey over the network

Editorial Team Editorial Team May 25, 2022
Yubikey family

In today’s world of social media and online work, USB dongles are seen as one of the most reliable ways to protect personal and corporate accounts from unauthorized access. Given the variety of hardware keys available, it’s not that easy to choose the one that will work best for you. In this article, we will tell you about a YubiKey protection dongle. You will learn what makes this device so popular and how to use it remotely whenever you need it.

What is a YubiKey?

The YubiKey is a compact device designed by the Yubico company to simplify two-factor authentication when logging in to an online account. All you need to do is enter your password and press a button on your YubiKey. This way the website you are trying to access gets additional proof that you are who you say you are.

A Yubikey dongle is a reliable and convenient alternative to an emailed code or a code generated by an authentication app. The device eliminates the need to type an authentication code manually and provides longer codes that are extremely difficult to compromise. With a YubiKey, two-factor authentication becomes much simpler and more secure.

If you would like to get remote access to your YubiKey dongle, USB Network Gate will come to help. The app lets you forward virtually any USB device over a network, making it available for connection on a remote machine. USB Network Gate allows secure redirection of your YubiKey between Windows, macOS, and Linux computers. You can also utilize it to connect your hardware key to a virtual machine or a cloud desktop.
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Can a YubiKey be shared?

Let's imagine that you have a business account and need to share one YubiKey device with several of your colleagues. It would be great if each of your coworkers had the possibility to connect the YubiKey to their computer remotely, wouldn’t it?

Or, for example, you are working from home. You want to access a corporate account from a remote office computer while having your YubiKey dongle physically attached to your home PC.

Dedicated software for remote access to USB security dongles will come in handy.

How to use a YubiKey device remotely

Probably the easiest way to redirect a YubiKey dongle to a remote PC is offered by a popular app - USB Network Gate.

The software utilizes advanced port virtualization technology that allows making any USB device accessible over LAN or the internet. You simply connect a YubiKey to one computer and access it from another one no matter the physical distance between the computers.

Another great advantage of this app is the ability to work in a virtual environment. The owner of a Yubikey can share it with a virtual machine easily with nothing more than a couple of clicks. USB Network Gate is compatible with Hyper-V, XenDesktop, Parallels, VirtualBox, and VMWare so your YubiKey device will always be accessible whenever you need it.

Here's how it works

You download USB Network Gate from its official website and install it on the computer or device to which your YubiKey dongle is connected physically.
Start the software, open the "Local Devices" tab and click the "Share" button next to the YubiKey name.

This will make the dongle available for access from a remote computer.
Create a connection to the remote desktop you would like to use the device on. TeamViewer, RDP Client, AnyDesk, or any other specialized app will help you do this.
Once logged on, install and start USB Network Gate.
Go to the "Remote Devices" tab, find the YubiKey in the list of shared devices and click the "Connect" button.

Now, the YubiKey dongle will appear on the remote computer like it was plugged directly into it. That’s it! With USB Network Gate, you can easily connect your YubiKey and share it over the network at any time over any distance.

Watch our video tutorial:
share a yubikey over the network

How to set up your YubiKey dongle

If you are going to use your YubiKey dongle for the first time, here are several simple steps to get started:

  • Attach your YubiKey to a computer.
  • Open the setup instructions page on the Yubico website.
  • Find your device and click on its name.
  • Next, select the account or service you would like to protect. (You can use YubiKey with LastPass, Gmail, Dropbox, Instagram, and numerous other accounts and services.)

As an example, we will add a YubiKey to a Google account.

  • The link to the page with instructions will be available once you select a Google account from the list of supported services.

  • Add a security key to your Google account. security key google account
  • Google will ask you to connect your dongle and press the button on the device. register Yubikey for google account
  • Give permission to your browser to access your key. You should receive key setup confirmation. security key name

Voila! Now your YubiKey can help you securely log in to your account from any of your devices.

Use a YubiKey dongle remotely
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Protocols supported by a YubiKey

The great thing about YubiKey dongles is that they work well with both legacy and current-day apps. This is possible thanks to a wide range of protocols they support. These include OTP (one-time password), OpenPGP 3, smart card authentication, FIDO U2F, and WebAuthn/FIDO2.

  • Being widely applied in legacy programs, authentication with OTP is based on generating a single-use code. The communication via an HID keyboard interface makes YubiKey compatible with any app capable of accepting keyboard input.

  • YubiKey enables smart card authentication as it supports the most common smart card drivers.

  • FIDO U2F is another protocol that works with a YubiKey. With the U2F protocol, the authentication device like a Yubikey dongle becomes the authentication provider, eliminating the need for a central authentication service.

Frequently Asked Questions

A YubiKey device is more convenient compared to SMS and email methods as it does not require copying and pasting the code or entering it manually. You just press the button on the device and that's it.

Some other advantages include the generation of much longer than traditional six-digit codes that ensure higher security, easy migration, and remote access options.
It's recommended that you have an additional YubiKey in case you lose your primary device or it gets stolen. If for any reason you don't possess an additional key, you may try to secure your account with another 2FA method.
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