My Ph.D. student San-Tsai Sun has successfully defended and submitted the final version of his thesis “Towards Improving the Usability and Security of Web Single Sign-On Systems.” He’s moving back to industry, where he will be applying his expertise in web security to real-world systems. Congratulations to San-Tsai on very successful completion of the Ph.D. program, with many quality publications.
Password meters tell users whether their passwords are “weak” or “strong.” In this paper, we report on a laboratory experiment to examine whether these meters influenced users’ password selections when they were forced to change their real passwords, and when they were not told that their passwords were the subject of a study. We observed that the presence of meters yielded significantly stronger passwords. We then performed a followup field experiment to test a different scenario: creating a password for an unimportant account. In this scenario, we found that the meters made no observable difference: participants simply reused weak passwords that they used to protect similar low-risk accounts. We conclude that meters result in stronger passwords when users are forced to change existing passwords on “important” accounts and that individual meter design decisions likely have a marginal impact.
More details are in the paper, which will be presented at CHI ’13 held April 27-May 3.
In my undergraduate course on security, we are holding a mini-conference on December 4, where each team of 3-4 students will present their term project. Project topics are diverse and practical. The mini-conference is open to public. See its schedule for location information and presentation times. The projects will be evaluated by the representatives of the high-tech industry.
Performance overhead due to the authorization delays can be reduced if the access control decisions are pre-computed beforehand and placed into the cache of the policy enforcement point (PEP). LERSSE alumni Pranab Kini has explored the design space for speculative authorizations. A journal version of his thesis has been recently published IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems.
I’ve been invited to serve on the independent panel on Internet voting appointed by Elections B.C.. Other members of the panel are Keith Archer (chair), Chief electoral officer; Lee-Ann Crane, chief administrative officer for the East Kootenay Regional District; Valerie King, professor in the department of computer science at the University of Victoria; and George Morfitt, former auditor general of B.C.
Additional information is available in the corresponding press release.
It’s hard to get a security protocol right. It seems even harder to get its implementations right, even more so when millions use it on daily basis. LERSSE’s Sun-Tsai will present at ACM CCS this October several critical vulnerabilities he has uncovered in implementation of OAuth 2.0, used by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and many other identity providers and relying parties. These vulnerabilities allow an attacker to gain unauthorized access to the victim user’s profile and social graph, and impersonate the victim on the RP website. Continue reading