The Strength of Password Meters Essay

The Strength of Password Meters Essay

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Introduction
The seminar was on a very interesting evaluation done on the strength of password meters. Almost all of us are exposed to password-strength meters in our everyday life. The general representation of password meter is a colored bar which when seen as a short red bar indicates a weak password and a long green bar indicates a strong password. The real purpose of a password meter is to show the path for better security to its users. However the strengths and weaknesses of these widely deployed meters has rarely been studied and hence this paper really opens up the real world thing going on. The authors of this paper [1] have chosen 11 prominent web service providers such as Google, Yahoo, Apple, FedEx, Skype, Microsoft, Twitter, Drupal, Dropbox, Paypal, ebay. To analyze these checkers the Javascript code has been extracted and analysed first, then relevant parts from the source code are plugged into a dictionary which in itself is an attack algorithm written in javascript and php. Then the behaviour of each meter is recorded when presented with publicly available dictionaries. At the end a close approximation of each meter’s scoring algorithm is made and reviewed.
Password meters overview [1]
1) Charset and length: Most of the checkers classify a password as invalid or short until a minimum length requirement is met.
2) Strength scales and labels: there would be various strength scales varying from 3 (as in Skype and PayPal which classifies as weak-fair-strong) to 6 (as in twitter which classifies as perfect-okay-could be more secure-not secure enough-obvious-too short)
3) User Information: Certain checkers consider the environment parameters relating to the user such as first name /email address etc.
4) Types
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Figure 1: Sample Password checker output

Conclusion
By far it is one of best works done relating to the topic. It is a comprehensive study of the most widely used password meters in the current world. The results and the analysis has been a very thrilling experience as it brings forth the fact that we as users cannot blindly depend on these meters and believe that our passwords would remain secure throughout. Several weaknesses and difference of these password meters are brought out to us and could be well used to design a very reliable and uniform password checker.
References
[1] Xavier de Carne de Carnavalet, Mohammed Mannan, “From very weak to very Strong: Analyzing password strength meters”
[2] M.Bishop and D.Klein, “Improving system Security via proactive password checking”
[3] https://madiba.encs.concordia.ca/software/passwordchecker/

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