Attacks/Breaches
2/5/2008
07:20 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Authentication Scheme Combats Keyloggers, Shoulder-Hacking

Carnegie Mellon University researchers' prototype keeps attackers in the dark during authentication

Researchers have built a prototype authentication technique that could ultimately reduce the risk of attackers hacking users' credentials via a keylogger or spyware.

The so-called Undercover system, which was built by Carnegie Mellon University faculty member Nicolas Christin and two CMU graduate students, approaches authentication differently: It hides the authentication challenges rather than the user's input or password during the authentication process.

The technique also can protect users from getting "shoulder-surfed" at the ATM machine while they type in their PIN, for instance, according to the researchers. "I am a bit nervous every time I withdraw money from an ATM," Christin said. "Crooks can see me type my 'secret' PIN and very easily figure out what it is, which becomes a big problem if they also gain access to my card number."

CMU CyLab's Undercover uses a combination of visual and tactile signals in the authentication process. It runs on a PC, which works with a trackball controlled by a Lego Mindstorm NXT robot. The trackball system and robot are combined in a plastic case that has numeric buttons for users to enter their answers to challenges they view on the PC monitor, as well as the trackball itself.

It works like this: The system displays a set of images to the user and asks if any belongs to the image portfolio that the user had previously selected. At the same time, the trackball sends the user a signal that maps each button on the case to a certain answer. The user's hand must cover the trackball for it to operate, so a sneaky observer wouldn't be able to see his or her selections, or answers.

So a would-be attacker can't "see" the tactile challenge presented by the trackball and therefore doesn't get the user's authentication data, even though he or she could see the image challenge on the display.

The CMU researchers tested the system as well as a pure PIN authentication solution on 38 users. The researchers were able to "hack" all of the traditional PINs. Only rarely were they able to correctly guess the solution to the Undercover challenge -- just in a few instances where the user's hand movements or comments gave them away somehow.

The researchers will present a paper on their research at an international human-computer interaction conference in Florence, Italy, in April.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Security Technologies to Watch in 2017
Emerging tools and services promise to make a difference this year. Are they on your company's list?
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.