Authentication is a ubiquitous task in users' daily lives. The dominant form of user authentication are text passwords. They protect private accounts like online banking, gaming, and email, but also assets in organisations. Yet, many issues are associated with text passwords, leading to challenges faced by both, users and organisations. This thesis contributes to the body of research enabling secure and usable user authentication, benefiting both, users and organisations. To that end, it addresses three distinct challenges.
The first challenge addressed in this thesis is the creation of correct, complete, understandable, and effective password security awareness materials. To this end, a systematic process for the creation of awareness materials was developed and applied to create a password security awareness material. This process comprises four steps. First, relevant content for an initial version is aggregated (i.e. descriptions of attacks on passwords and user accounts, descriptions of defences to these attacks, and common misconceptions about password and user account security). Then, feedback from information security experts is gathered to ensure the correctness and completeness of the awareness material. ... mehrThereafter, feedback from lay-users is gathered to ensure the understandability of the awareness material. Finally, a formal evaluation of the awareness material is conducted to ensure its effectiveness (i.e. whether the material improves participant's ability to assess the security of passwords as well as password-related behaviour and decreases the prevalence of common misconceptions about password and user account security). The results of the evaluation show the effectiveness of the awareness material: it significantly improved the participants' ability to assess the security of password-related behaviour as well as passwords and significantly decreased the prevalence of misconceptions about password and user account security.
The second challenge addressed in this thesis is shoulder-surfing resistant text password entry with gamepads (as an example of very constrained input devices) in shared spaces. To this end, the very first investigation of text password entry with gamepads is conducted. First, the requirements of authentication in the gamepad context are described. Then, these requirements are applied to assess schemes already deployed in the gamepad context and shoulder-surfing resistant authentication schemes from the literature proposed for non-gamepad contexts. The results of this assessment show that none of the currently deployed and only four of the proposals in the literature fulfil all requirements. Furthermore, the results of the assessment also indicate a need for an empirical evaluation in order to exactly gauge the shoulder-surfing threat in the gamepad context and compare alternatives to the incumbent on-screen keyboard. Based on these results, two user studies (one online study and one lab study) are conducted to investigate the shoulder-surfing resistance and usability of three authentication schemes in the gamepad context: the on-screen keyboard (as de-facto standard in this context), the grid-based scheme (an existing proposal from the literature identified as the most viable candidate adaptable to the gamepad context during the assessment), and Colorwheels (a novel shoulder-surfing resistant authentication scheme specifically designed for the gamepad context). The results of these two user studies show that on-screen keyboards are highly susceptible to opportunistic shoulder-surfing, but also show the most favourable usability properties among the three schemes. Colorwheels offers the most robust shoulder-surfing resistance and scores highest with respect to participants' intention to use it in the future, while showing more favourable usability results than the grid-based scheme.
The third challenge addressed in this thesis is secure and efficient storage of passwords in portfolio authentication schemes. Portfolio authentication is used to counter capture attacks such as shoulder-surfing or eavesdropping on network traffic. While usability studies of portfolio authentication schemes showed promising results, a verification scheme which allows secure and efficient storage of the portfolio authentication secret had been missing until now. To remedy this problem, the (t,n)-threshold verification scheme is proposed. It is based on secret sharing and key derivation functions. The security as well as the efficiency properties of two variants of the scheme (one based on Blakley secret sharing and one based on Shamir secret sharing) are evaluated against each other and against a naive approach. These evaluations show that the two (t,n)-threshold verification scheme variants always exhibit more favourable properties than the naive approach and that when deciding between the two variants, the exact application scenario must be considered. Three use cases illustrate as exemplary application scenarios the versatility of the proposed (t,n)-threshold verification scheme.
By addressing the aforementioned three distinct challenges, this thesis demonstrates the breadth of the field of usable and secure user authentication ranging from awareness materials, to the assessment and evaluation of authentication schemes, to applying cryptography to craft secure password storage solutions. The research processes, results, and insights described in this thesis represent important and meaningful contributions to the state of the art in the research on usable and secure user authentication, offering benefits for users, organisations, and researchers alike.