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Roaming passkey authenticators


Roaming authenticators allow users to sign in to a website on one device, using a passkey stored on a different device.

Passkeys offer a capability known as roaming authenticators. Conceptually this is very similar to many online banking websites, in which a web sign-in must be approved using the banking smartphone app.

Passkey roaming authenticators in action. Showing an external authenticator and smartphone authenticator
Smartphone & external roaming authenticators

This flow could be triggered by the browser itself if the user tries to sign in but has no passkey credentials registered on the device. Alternatively the user may choose to use a credential held on another device, known as the roaming authenticator.

The roaming authenticator could be an external authenticator e.g. a YubiKey or a smartphone / tablet. In the case of an external device, the user will be asked to plug it in or othewise pair it. Smartphone users will simply scan a generated QR code.

Toby Hobson

Toby Hobson



Passkey browser support in 2024

All the major browsers now support passkeys, however biometric support is often limited to those browsers with tight platform integration e.g. Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android.


Two factor authentication using passkeys

Passkeys enable two factor authentication (including biometrics). Users can even use a biometric enabled device e.g. iPhone FaceID to authenticate against a device lacking this capability e.g. a desktop.

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