Houston, TX 77005
4:00 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013
On Campus | Alumni
User authentication is a critical part of many systems. As strong cryptography has become widespread and vulnerabilities in systems become harder to find and exploit, attackers are turning toward user authentication as a potential avenue for compromising users. Unfortunately, user authentication on the web has remained virtually unchanged since the invention of the Internet. I will present three systems that attempt to strengthen user authentication, and its close cousin authorization, on the web while being practical for developers, usable for users, and secure against attackers. First, I will discuss Origin Bound Certificates -- a mechanism for tweaking Transport Layer Security (TLS) that can then be used to strongly strengthen the authentication of HTTP requests by binding cookies (or other tokens) to a client certificate. This renders stolen cookies unusable by attackers. Second, I will present PhoneAuth, a system for protecting password-based login by opportunistically providing cryptographic identity assertions from a user's mobile phone while maintaining a simple and usable authentication experience. Third, I will describe ongoing research into how a class of web vulnerabilities called Cross-Site Request Forgeries (CSRFs) can be fundamentally prevented using Allowed Referrer Lists. I'll discuss the next big challenges in user authentication and conclude with several examples of where authentication matters beyond the web.