Explicit Authentication Response Considered Harmful
Author(s): Lianying Zhao, Mohammad Mannan

Date: September 2013
Publication: Proceedings of the 2013 Workshop on New Security Paradigms Workshop, NSPW '13
Page(s): 77 - 86
Publisher: ACM
Source 1: http://www.nspw.org/papers/2013/nspw2013-zhao.pdf
Source 2: http://users.encs.concordia.ca/~z_lianyi/uvauth-nspw13-post-proceedings.pdf
Source 3: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2535813.2535822 - Subscription or payment required

Abstract or Summary:
Automated online password guessing attacks are facilitated by the fact that most user authentication techniques provide a yes/no answer as the result of an authentication attempt. These attacks are somewhat restricted by Automated Turing Tests (ATTs, e.g., captcha challenges) that attempt to mandate human assistance. ATTs are not very difficult for legitimate users, but always pose an inconvenience. Several current ATT implementations are also found to be vulnerable to improved image processing algorithms. ATTs can be made more complex for automated software, but that is limited by the trade-off between user-friendliness and effectiveness of ATTs. As attackers gain control of large-scale botnets, relay the challenge to legitimate users at compromised websites, or even have ready access to cheap, sweat-shop human solvers for defeating ATTs, online guessing attacks are becoming a greater security risk. Using deception techniques (as in honeypots), we propose the user-verifiable authentication scheme (Uvauth) that tolerates, instead of detecting or counteracting, guessing attacks. Uvauth provides access to all authentication attempts; the correct password enables access to a legitimate session with valid user data, and all incorrect passwords lead to fake sessions. Legitimate users are expected to learn the authentication outcome implicitly from the presented user data, and are relieved from answering ATTs; the authentication result never leaves the server and thus remains (directly) inaccessible to attackers. In addition, we suggest using adapted distorted images and pre-registered images/text as a complement to convey an authentication response, especially for accounts that do not host much personal data.

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