Memoirs of a YubiKing

March 23, 2015 3 minute read
YubiKing

While I’ve been an employee with Yubico for a little more than two years now, my history with the company dates back a bit further. And the YubiKing contest we announced today to discover the next innovative use of the YubiKey transports me back to that time. Before I was an employee, I was a winner in the initial YubiKing contest.

The first time I heard of the YubiKey was on an episode of the Security Now podcast back in 2008. An enthusiastic Stina Ehrensvard (CEO and founder of Yubico) was being interviewed and the details of how the YubiKey worked were being explained down to a very technical level. I remember later trying to explain how it worked to my then girlfriend (now wife), who didn’t quite share my excitement for the device. Nonetheless, I was smitten.

YubiKing is your opportunity to create the next innovative use for a YubiKey. Enter your project in the YubiKing Virtual Hackathon today to become eligible to win great prizes!

A while afterward, the first YubiKing competition was announced in a follow-up episode. This was the perfect excuse for me to get a YubiKey and play around with it. The rules were pretty simple: Create something that uses the YubiKey and submit it to the competition. I had what I considered a pretty neat idea for a hack, but with several companies entering the competition I saw little hope of actually winning. Still, the promise of a YubiKey for entrants was there. I had no excuse not to give it a shot.

At the time, very few web sites offered two-factor authentication. We’ve come a long way since then (with an even longer way to go, still), but I had an idea to immediately start using a YubiKey with more sites. My solution was a very basic password manager of sorts, which used Yubico OTPs for authentication.

It worked like this: You would store passwords for different sites, and the YubiKey would protect access to your passwords. A small browser plugin would then hook into password fields on third-party sites, detecting if an OTP was entered instead of a password. When it saw an OTP, it would query the server for your password and seamlessly replace the OTP with your actual password before submitting the field and logging you in. Boom, instant YubiKey support for any site!

My submission lacked polish and was mostly thrown together over the course of a weekend. But it worked, and the idea was novel enough that it earned me one of the coveted YubiKing titles awarded that year. This contest began my relationship with Yubico and eventually led me to a new job working with the technologies I’m passionate about.

Now we’re running another YubiKing contest, and I’m very excited to see what kind of new innovations will pop up this time around.

Share this article:

Recommended content

How YubiKeys are made: Security at scale

The first YubiKey was manufactured in Sweden in 2008. A few years later, part of our team moved from Stockholm to California, and we expanded our production capabilities to this part to the US West coast. It was a conscious choice to manufacture our products in the two democratic countries that were close to our ...

New Yubico for Free Speech Program Arms Nonprofits with Strong Authentication

2020 continues to be a challenging year in many ways for all of us, but today, we’re proud to share some hopeful news — Yubico is introducing the Yubico for Free Speech Program, an initiative designed to defend digital privacy, online security, and free speech for at-risk individuals and nonprofit organizations. As of July 1, ...

Star Wars Day Promo: May the 4th Be With You!

You don’t have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Sadly, our world is facing an ever-growing number of phishing attacks from data smugglers (work with us here). But there is hope. A new force has awakened… You. And you’re armed with this… a ...

Why we designed the YubiKey the way we did

The first YubiKey was launched in 2008, inspired by the word ‘ubiquity’ and with the mission to make simple and secure logins available for everyone. At the time, we were less than 10 people in the company, but our strategy was simple: if we focused on further developing the YubiKey technology in close collaboration with ...