Interesting usability study: “More Than Just Good Passwords? A Study on Usability and Security Perceptions of Risk-based Authentication“:
Abstract: Risk-based Authentication (RBA) is an adaptive security measure to strengthen password-based authentication. RBA monitors additional features during login, and when observed feature values differ significantly from previously seen ones, users have to provide additional authentication factors such as a verification code. RBA has the potential to offer more usable authentication, but the usability and the security perceptions of RBA are not studied well.
We present the results of a between-group lab study (n=65) to evaluate usability and security perceptions of two RBA variants, one 2FA variant, and password-only authentication. Our study shows with significant results that RBA is considered to be more usable than the studied 2FA variants, while it is perceived as more secure than password-only authentication in general and comparably se-cure to 2FA in a variety of application types. We also observed RBA usability problems and provide recommendations for mitigation.Our contribution provides a first deeper understanding of the users’perception of RBA and helps to improve RBA implementations for a broader user acceptance.
Paper’s website. I’ve blogged about risk-based authentication before.
Posted on October 5, 2020 at 11:47 AM •
DiceKeys is a physical mechanism for creating and storing a 192-bit key. The idea is that you roll a special set of twenty-five dice, put them into a plastic jig, and then use an app to convert those dice into a key. You can then use that key for a variety of purposes, and regenerate it from the dice if you need to.
This week Stuart Schechter, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, is launching DiceKeys, a simple kit for physically generating a single super-secure key that can serve as the basis for creating all the most important passwords in your life for years or even decades to come. With little more than a plastic contraption that looks a bit like a Boggle set and an accompanying web app to scan the resulting dice roll, DiceKeys creates a highly random, mathematically unguessable key. You can then use that key to derive master passwords for password managers, as the seed to create a U2F key for two-factor authentication, or even as the secret key for cryptocurrency wallets. Perhaps most importantly, the box of dice is designed to serve as a permanent, offline key to regenerate that master password, crypto key, or U2F token if it gets lost, forgotten, or broken.
Schechter is also building a separate app that will integrate with DiceKeys to allow users to write a DiceKeys-generated key to their U2F two-factor authentication token. Currently the app works only with the open-source SoloKey U2F token, but Schechter hopes to expand it to be compatible with more commonly used U2F tokens before DiceKeys ship out. The same API that allows that integration with his U2F token app will also allow cryptocurrency wallet developers to integrate their wallets with DiceKeys, so that with a compatible wallet app, DiceKeys can generate the cryptographic key that protects your crypto coins too.
Here’s the DiceKeys website and app. Here’s a short video demo. Here’s a longer SOUPS talk.
Preorder a set here.
Note: I am an adviser on the project.
Another news article. Slashdot thread. Hacker News thread. Reddit thread.
Posted on August 24, 2020 at 6:23 AM •
It is amazing that this sort of thing can still happen:
…the list was compiled by scanning the entire internet for devices that were exposing their Telnet port. The hacker then tried using (1) factory-set default usernames and passwords, or (2) custom, but easy-to-guess password combinations.
Telnet? Default passwords? In 2020?
We have a long way to go to secure the IoT.
EDITED TO ADD (7/14): Apologies, but I previously blogged this story in January.
Posted on July 8, 2020 at 6:41 AM •
This study shows that most people don’t change their passwords after a breach, and if they do they change it to a weaker password.
Abstract: To protect against misuse of passwords compromised in a breach, consumers should promptly change affected passwords and any similar passwords on other accounts. Ideally, affected companies should strongly encourage this behavior and have mechanisms in place to mitigate harm. In order to make recommendations to companies about how to help their users perform these and other security-enhancing actions after breaches, we must first have some understanding of the current effectiveness of companies’ post-breach practices. To study the effectiveness of password-related breach notifications and practices enforced after a breach, we examine—based on real-world password data from 249 participants—whether and how constructively participants changed their passwords after a breach announcement.
Of the 249 participants, 63 had accounts on breached domains;only 33% of the 63 changed their passwords and only 13% (of 63)did so within three months of the announcement. New passwords were on average 1.3× stronger than old passwords (when comparing log10-transformed strength), though most were weaker or of equal strength. Concerningly, new passwords were overall more similar to participants’ other passwords, and participants rarely changed passwords on other sites even when these were the same or similar to their password on the breached domain.Our results highlight the need for more rigorous password-changing requirements following a breach and more effective breach notifications that deliver comprehensive advice.
EDITED TO ADD (6/2): Another news aricle. Slashdot thread.
EDITED TO ADD (7/1): This entry has been translated into Spanish.
Posted on June 1, 2020 at 6:08 AM •
Joshua Schulte, the CIA employee standing trial for leaking the Wikileaks Vault 7 CIA hacking tools, maintains his innocence. And during the trial, a lot of shoddy security and sysadmin practices are coming out:
All this raises a question, though: just how bad is the CIA’s security that it wasn’t able to keep Schulte out, even accounting for the fact that he is a hacking and computer specialist? And the answer is: absolutely terrible.
The password for the Confluence virtual machine that held all the hacking tools that were stolen and leaked? That’ll be 123ABCdef. And the root login for the main DevLAN server? mysweetsummer.
It actually gets worse than that. Those passwords were shared by the entire team and posted on the group’s intranet. IRC chats published during the trial even revealed team members talking about how terrible their infosec practices were, and joked that CIA internal security would go nuts if they knew. Their justification? The intranet was restricted to members of the Operational Support Branch (OSB): the elite programming unit that makes the CIA’s hacking tools.
The jury returned no verdict on the serious charges. He was convicted of contempt and lying to the FBI; a mistrial on everything else.
Posted on March 10, 2020 at 6:18 AM •
It’s a list of easy-to-guess passwords for IoT devices on the Internet as recently as last October and November. Useful for anyone putting together a bot network:
A hacker has published this week a massive list of Telnet credentials for more than 515,000 servers, home routers, and IoT (Internet of Things) “smart” devices.
The list, which was published on a popular hacking forum, includes each device’s IP address, along with a username and password for the Telnet service, a remote access protocol that can be used to control devices over the internet.
According to experts to who ZDNet spoke this week, and a statement from the leaker himself, the list was compiled by scanning the entire internet for devices that were exposing their Telnet port. The hacker than tried using (1) factory-set default usernames and passwords, or (2) custom, but easy-to-guess password combinations.
Posted on January 22, 2020 at 6:09 AM •
A malicious Chrome extension surreptitiously steals Ethereum keys and passwords:
According to Denley, the extension is dangerous to users in two ways. First, any funds (ETH coins and ERC0-based tokens) managed directly inside the extension are at risk.
Denley says that the extension sends the private keys of all wallets created or managed through its interface to a third-party website located at erc20wallet[.]tk.
Another example of how blockchain requires many single points of trust in order to be secure.
Posted on January 3, 2020 at 6:09 AM •
At the CyberwarCon conference in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday, Microsoft security researcher Ned Moran plans to present new findings from the company’s threat intelligence group that show a shift in the activity of the Iranian hacker group APT33, also known by the names Holmium, Refined Kitten, or Elfin. Microsoft has watched the group carry out so-called password-spraying attacks over the past year that try just a few common passwords across user accounts at tens of thousands of organizations. That’s generally considered a crude and indiscriminate form of hacking. But over the last two months, Microsoft says APT33 has significantly narrowed its password spraying to around 2,000 organizations per month, while increasing the number of accounts targeted at each of those organizations almost tenfold on average.
The hackers’ motivation—and which industrial control systems they’ve actually breached—remains unclear. Moran speculates that the group is seeking to gain a foothold to carry out cyberattacks with physically disruptive effects. “They’re going after these producers and manufacturers of control systems, but I don’t think they’re the end targets,” says Moran. “They’re trying to find the downstream customer, to find out how they work and who uses them. They’re looking to inflict some pain on someone’s critical infrastructure that makes use of these control systems.”
It’s unclear whether the attackers are causing any actual damage, or just gaining access for some future use.
Posted on December 17, 2019 at 6:05 AM •
Lots of them weren’t very good:
BSD co-inventor Dennis Ritchie, for instance, used “dmac” (his middle name was MacAlistair); Stephen R. Bourne, creator of the Bourne shell command line interpreter, chose “bourne”; Eric Schmidt, an early developer of Unix software and now the executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, relied on “wendy!!!” (the name of his wife); and Stuart Feldman, author of Unix automation tool make and the first Fortran compiler, used “axolotl” (the name of a Mexican salamander).
Weakest of all was the password for Unix contributor Brian W. Kernighan: “/.,/.,” representing a three-character string repeated twice using adjacent keys on a QWERTY keyboard. (None of the passwords included the quotation marks.)
I don’t remember any of my early passwords, but they probably weren’t much better.
Posted on October 15, 2019 at 10:38 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.