Assessing the User Experience of Password Reset Policies in a University
Authors: Simon Parkin, Samy Driss, Kat Krol, Martina Angela Sasse

Date: December 2015
Publication: 9th International Conference on Passwords (Passwords15 London). Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 9551
Page(s): 21 - 38
Publisher: Springer
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Abstract or Summary:
Organisations may secure system access through use of passwords that comply with defined complexity rules. It may be required that passwords be changed regularly, using an in-person or online helpdesk. Helpdesk logs record password change events and support requests, but overlook the impact of compliance upon end-user productivity. System managers are not incentivised to investigate these impacts, so productivity costs remain with the end-user. We investigate how helpdesk log data can be analysed and augmented to expose the personal costs. Here we describe exploratory analysis of a university’s helpdesk log data, spanning 30 months and 500,000 system events for approximately 10,000 staff and 20,000-plus students. End-user costs were identified, where follow-on interviews and NASA-RTLX assessments with 20 students informed issues which log data did not adequately describe. The majority of users reset passwords before expiration (75% of log events). Log analysis indicated that the online self-service system was vastly preferred to the helpdesk, but that there was a 4:1 ratio of failed to successful attempts to recover account access. Log data did not describe the effort in managing passwords, where interviews exposed points of frustration. Participants saw the need for security but voiced a lack of understanding of the numerous restrictions on passwords. Frustrations led to adoption of diverse coping strategies. We propose ways to improve support, including real-time communication of reasons for failed password creation attempts, and measurement of timing for both successful and failed login attempts. Note: Video of presentation:

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