Comparing Passwords, Tokens, and Biometrics for User Authentication
Authors: Lawrence O'Gorman

Date: December 2003
Publication: Proceedings of the IEEE, Volume 91, Issue 12
Page(s): 2019 - 2040
Publisher: IEEE
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Abstract or Summary:
For decades, the password has been the standard means for user authentication on computers. However, as users are required to remember more, longer, and changing passwords, it is evident that a more convenient and secure solution to user authentication is necessary. This paper examines passwords, security tokens, and biometrics-which we collectively call authenticators-and compares these authenticators and their combinations. We examine their effectiveness against several attacks and suitability for particular security specifications such as compromise detection and nonrepudiation. Examples of authenticator combinations and protocols are described to show tradeoffs and solutions that meet chosen, practical requirements. The paper endeavors to offer a comprehensive picture of user authentication solutions for the purposes of evaluating options for use and identifying deficiencies requiring further research.

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