A Security Analysis of Honeywords
Authors: Ding Wang, Haibo Cheng, Ping Wang, Jeff Yan, Xinyi Huang

Abstract or Summary:
Honeywords are decoy passwords associated with each user account, and they contribute a promising approach to detecting password leakage. This approach has been covered by hundreds of medias and also been adopted in various research domains. The idea of honeywords looks deceptively simple, but it is a deep and sophisticated challenge to automatically generate honeywords that are hard to differentiate from real passwords. In Juels-Rivest's work, four main honeyword-generation methods are suggested but only justified by heuristic security arguments.

In this work, we for the first time develop a series of experiments using 10 large-scale password datasets, a total of 104 million real-world passwords, to evaluate the security that these four methods can provide. Our results reveal that they all fail to provide the expected security: real passwords can be distinguished with a success rate of 29.29% ~ 32.62% by our basic trawling-guessing attacker, but not the claimed 5%, with just one guess (when each user account is associated 19 honeywords as recommended). This figure reaches 34.21% ~ 49.02% under the advanced trawling-guessing attackers who make use of various state-of-the-art probabilistic password models. We further evaluate the security of Juels-Rivest's methods under a targeted-guessing attacker who can exploit the victim's personal information, and the results are even more alarming: 56.81% ~ 67.98%. Overall, our work resolves three open problems in honeyword research, as defined by Juels and Rivest.

PasswordResearch.com Note: Video of presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UcqgHm3cEg Project page: https://github.com/pkusec/rethinking-honeywords

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