The True Cost of Unusable Password Policies: Password Use in the Wild
Author(s): Philip G. Inglesant, Martina Angela Sasse

Date: April 2010
Publication: Proceedings of the 2010 SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI '10
Page(s): 383 - 392
Publisher: ACM
Source 1: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/shb10/angela2.pdf
Source 2: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1753326.1753384 - Subscription or payment required

Abstract or Summary:
HCI research published 10 years ago pointed out that many users cannot cope with the number and complexity of passwords, and resort to insecure workarounds as a consequence. We present a study which re-examined password policies and password practice in the workplace today.

32 staff members in two organisations kept a password diary for 1 week, which produced a sample of 196 passwords. The diary was followed by an interview which covered details of each password, in its context of use.

We find that users are in general concerned to maintain security, but that existing security policies are too inflexible to match their capabilities, and the tasks and contexts in which they operate. As a result, these password policies can place demands on users which impact negatively on their productivity and, ultimately, that of the organisation.

We conclude that, rather than focussing password policies on maximizing password strength and enforcing frequency alone, policies should be designed using HCI principles to help the user to set an appropriately strong password in a specific context of use.




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