Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2015/1131

On the Usability of Two-Factor Authentication

Ding Wang and Ping Wang

Abstract: Smart-card-based password authentication, known as two-factor authentication, is one of the most widely used security mechanisms to validate the legitimacy of a remote client, who must hold a valid smart card and the correct password in order to successfully login the server. So far the research on this domain has mainly focused on developing more secure, privacy-preserving and efficient protocols, which has led to numerous efficient proposals with a diversity of security provisions, yet little attention has been directed towards another important aspect, i.e. the usability of a scheme. This paper focuses on the study of two specific security threats on usability in two-factor authentication. Using two representative protocols as case studies, we demonstrate two types of security threats on usability: (1) Password change attack, which may easily render the smart card completely unusable by changing the password to a random value; and (2) De-synchronization attack, which breaks the consistence of the pseudo-identities between the user and the server. These threats, though realistic in practice, have been paid little attention in the literature. In addition to revealing the vulnerabilities, we discuss how to thwart these security threats and secure the protocols.

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Original Publication (with minor differences): Proceedings of 10th International Conference on Security and Privacy in Communication Networks (SecureComm 2014)
10.1007/978-3-319-23829-6 11

Date: received 23 Nov 2015

Contact author: wangdingg at yeah net

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Note: This is a full version of the paper presented at SecureComm 2014.

Version: 20151126:193530 (All versions of this report)

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