Survival of the Shortest: A Retrospective Analysis of Influencing Factors on Password Composition

Abstract : In this paper, we investigate the evolutionary change of user-selected passwords. We conducted one-on-one interviews and analyzed the complexity and the diversity of users’ passwords using different analysis tools. By comparing their first-ever created passwords to several of their currently used passwords (e.g. most secure, policy-based), we were able to trace password reuse, password changes and influencing factors on the evolutionary process. Our approach allowed for analyzing security aspects without actually knowing the clear-text passwords. The results reveal that currently used passwords are significantly longer than the participants’ first passwords and that most participants are aware of how to compose strong passwords. However, most users are still using significantly weaker passwords for most services. These weak passwords, often with roots in the very first passwords the users have chosen, apparently survive very well, despite password policies and password meters.
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Paula Kotzé; Gary Marsden; Gitte Lindgaard; Janet Wesson; Marco Winckler. 14th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (INTERACT), Sep 2013, Cape Town, South Africa. Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, LNCS-8119 (Part III), pp.460-467, 2013, Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2013. 〈10.1007/978-3-642-40477-1_28〉
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Emanuel Zezschwitz, Alexander Luca, Heinrich Hussmann. Survival of the Shortest: A Retrospective Analysis of Influencing Factors on Password Composition. Paula Kotzé; Gary Marsden; Gitte Lindgaard; Janet Wesson; Marco Winckler. 14th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (INTERACT), Sep 2013, Cape Town, South Africa. Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, LNCS-8119 (Part III), pp.460-467, 2013, Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2013. 〈10.1007/978-3-642-40477-1_28〉. 〈hal-01504901〉

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