The Quest to Replace Passwords: A Framework for Comparative Evaluation of Web Authentication Schemes

IEEE Symp. Security and Privacy |

Published by IEEE

We evaluate two decades of proposals to replace text passwords for general-purpose user authentication on the web using a broad set of twenty-five usability, deployability and security benefits that an ideal scheme might provide. The scope of proposals we survey is also extensive, including password management software, federated login protocols, graphical password schemes, cognitive authentication schemes, one-time passwords, ardware tokens, phone-aided schemes and biometrics. Our comprehensive approach leads to key insights about the difficulty of replacing passwords. Not only does no known scheme come close to providing all desired benefits: none even retains the full set of benefits that legacy passwords already provide. In particular, there is a wide range from schemes ffering minor security benefits beyond legacy passwords, to those offering significant security benefits in return for being more costly to deploy or more difficult to use.
We conclude that many academic proposals have failed to gain traction because researchers rarely consider a sufficiently wide range of real-world constraints. Beyond our analysis of current schemes, our framework provides an evaluation methodology and benchmark for future web authentication proposals.