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The science of guessing

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Despite decades of efforts to improve authentication, the world still relies heavily on secrets chosen (and memorized) by humans: passwords, PINs, personal knowledge questions and the occasional graphical password scheme. While everybody think these are possible for attackers to guess, our understanding of just how difficult is vague. Are passwords or PINs harder and by how much? How can we accurately the difficulty of guessing passwords chosen by older users to those chosen by younger users, or those chosen by English speakers to those chosen by Spanish speakers? This talk will address these questions, presenting the speaker’s dissertation research and upcoming IEEE Security & Privacy Symposium publication. To do so, the talk will introduce the right statistical metrics for measuring guessing resistance, discuss how to collect large password datasets in a privacy-friendly and secure manner, and discuss some findings from analyzing 70 M passwords from Yahoo! users, perhaps the largest corpus ever studied.

This talk is part of the Microsoft Research Cambridge, public talks series.

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