SimPass: Quantifying the Impact of Password Behaviors and Policy Directives on an Organization's Systems
Author(s): Karen Renaud, Lewis Mackenzie

Date: 2013
Publication: Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Volume 16, Number 3
Source 1: http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/16/3/3.html

Abstract or Summary:
Users are often considered the weakest link in the security chain because of their natural propensity for choosing convenience over safe practice. One area with a vast amount of evidence related to poor user behaviour is that of password management. For example, when hackers gain unauthorised access to public websites, subsequent analysis generally confirms that compromised passwords are to blame. We have a pretty good idea of the extent to which careless behaviour impacts on the individual user's personal security. However, we don't fully understand the impact on the organisation as a whole when such laxity is aggregated across a large number of employees, nor do we know how best to intervene so as to improve the level of protection of critical systems. Current wisdom mandates the use of increasingly draconian policies to curb insecure behaviours but it is clear that this approach has limited effectiveness. Unfortunately, no one really understands how the individual directives contained in these policies impact on the security of the systems in an organisation. Sometimes a mandated tightening of policy can have unexpected side-effects which are not easily anticipated and may indeed prove entirely counterproductive. It would be very difficult to investigate these issues in a real-life environment so here we describe a simulation model, which seeks to replicate a typical organisation, with employee agents using a number of systems over an extended period. The model is configurable, allowing adjustment of particular input parameters in order to reflect different policy dictats so as to determine their impact on the security of the simulated organisation's IT infrastructure. This tool will support security specialists developing policies within their organisations by quantifying the longitudinal impacts of particular rules.



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