A Usability Study and Critique of Two Password Managers
Authors: Sonia Chiasson, P.C. van Oorschot, Robert Biddle

Date: July 2006
Publication: Proceedings of the 15th USENIX Security Symposium (Security '06)
Publisher: USENIX
Source 1: https://www.usenix.org/legacy/event/sec06/tech/full_papers/chiasson/chiasson.pdf

Abstract or Summary:
We present a usability study of two recent passwordmanager proposals: PwdHash (Ross et al., 2005) and Password Multiplier (Halderman et al., 2005). Both papers considered usability issues in greater than typical detail, the former briefly reporting on a small usability study; both also provided implementations for download. Our study involving 26 users found that both proposals suffer from major usability problems. Some of these are not “simply” usability issues, but rather lead directly to security exposures. Not surprisingly, we found the most significant problems arose from users having inaccurate or incomplete mental models of the software. Our study revealed many interesting misunderstandings – for example, users reporting a task as easy even when unsuccessful at completing that task; and believing their passwords were being strengthened when in fact they had failed to engage the appropriate protection mechanism. Our findings also suggested that ordinary users would be reluctant to opt-in to using these managers: users were uncomfortable with “relinquishing control” of their passwords to a manager, did not feel that they needed the password managers, or that the managers provided greater security.

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