Augmenting Centralized Password Management with Application-Specific Passwords

Trevor Smith, Scott Ruoti, and Kent Seamons

Password authentication is the most prevalent form of authentication; however, passwords have numerous usability issues. For example, due to the large number and high complexity required of passwords, users frequently reuse and choose weak passwords. One way to address these problems is to centralize password management by using a password manager or single sign-on. While this centralizing approach can improve a user's security, it also magnifies the damage caused by a compromise of the user's master password. In this paper, we describe a new approach to enhance centralized password management using application-specific passwords. This approach prevents the compromise of a master password from immediately compromising all associated applications and instead, requires the attacker to conduct further online attacks against individual applications. We detail five possible system designs for application-specific passwords and describe our plans for user studies to test the acceptance and usability of this approach.

Trevor Smith, Scott Ruoti, and Kent Seamons. 2017. Augmenting centralized password management with application-specific passwords. In Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Who Are You?! Adventures in Authentication. USENIX.