Posts Tagged ‘Two-Factor Authentication’

The Ugly Side of Two-Factor Authentication

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Two-factor authentication is great when it comes to securing access to someone’s account. It’s not so great when it gets in the way of accessing your account. However, in emergency situations things can turn completely ugly. In this article we’ll discuss steps you can do to minimize the negative consequences of using two-factor authentication if you lose access to your trusted device and your trusted phone number. In order to keep the size of this text reasonable we’ll only talk about Apple’s implementation, namely Two-Step Verification and Two-Factor Authentication. You can read more about those in our previous blog post.


Microsoft Two-Factor Authentication: Always There

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Beginning with Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft started unifying its mobile and desktop operating systems. No wonder the two versions of Microsoft’s latest OS, Windows 10, share the same approach to two-factor authentication.

Microsoft employs a somewhat unique approach to two-factor authentication. Even if the user does not want to use two-factor authentication and does not set up any secondary authentication methods, in some circumstances Microsoft would still prompt to confirm account login. Just like Google, the company would verify unusual sign-in activities occurring from a new device in another country. However, it’s not just that. Microsoft would also try to verify Microsoft Account activities once the user attempts to restore a new phone (Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile) from OneDrive backup. Interestingly, Microsoft would do exactly the same verification if one sets up an account on a new PC (desktop, laptop or tablet) and attempts to restore from OneDrive backup.


Bypassing Apple’s Two-Factor Authentication

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Two-factor authentication a roadblock when investigating an Apple device. Obtaining a data backup from the user’s iCloud account is a common and relatively easy way to acquire evidence from devices that are otherwise securely protected. It might be possible to bypass two-factor authentication if one is able to extract a so-called authentication token from the suspect’s computer.

Authentication tokens are used by iCloud Control Panel that comes pre-installed on macOS computers, as well as iCloud for Windows that can be installed on Windows PCs. Authentication tokens are very similar to browser cookies. They are used to cache authentication credentials, facilitating subsequent logins without asking the user for login and password and without prompting for secondary authentication factors. Authentication tokens do not contain the user’s password, and not even a hash of the password. Instead, they are randomly generated sequences of characters that are used to identify authorized sessions.

Tip: The use of authentication tokens allows bypassing two-factor authentication even if no access to the secondary authentication factor is available.


Exploring Two-Factor Authentication

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

In this article we’ll discuss the differences between implementations of two-factor authentication in popular mobile platforms. We’ll research how two-factor authentication is implemented in Android, iOS and Windows 10 Mobile, and discuss usability and security implications of each implementation.

What Is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-factor authentication is an additional security layer protecting access to user accounts in addition to their username and password. In two-factor authentication an extra verification step is required that is separate from the password. Ideally, two-factor authentication schemes would be based on verifying “something you have” in addition to “something you know”. In practical terms this is not always convenient for the end user, so very few straightforward implementations exist (mostly in the banking industry in Europe).

Using the extra verification step based on a piece of information that only the user knows or has access to makes it significantly harder for potential intruders to break in.


Apple Two-Factor Authentication vs. Two-Step Verification

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Two-step verification and two-factor authentication both aim to help users secure their Apple ID, adding a secondary authentication factor to strengthen security. While Apple ID and password are “something you know”, two-step verification (and two-factor authentication) are both based on “something you have”.

However, Apple doesn’t make it easy. Instead of using a single two-factor authentication solution (like Google), the company went for two different processes with similar usability and slightly different names. What are the differences between the two verification processes, and how do they affect mobile forensics? Let’s try to find out.

How Secure Is Your Password? A Friendly Advice from a Company That Breaks Passwords

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

A Practical Guide for the Rest of Us

How many passwords does an average Joe or Jane has to remember? Obviously, it’s not just one or two. Security requirements vary among online services, accounts and applications, allowing (or disallowing) certain passwords. Seven years ago, Microsoft determined in a study that an average user  had 6.5 Web passwords, each of which is shared across about four different websites. They’ve also determined that, back then, each user had about 25 accounts that required passwords, and typed an average of 8 passwords per day.

If i got a penny every time i forgot my pwd, I'd be a millionaire

It didn’t change much in 2012. Another study determined that an average person has 26 online accounts, but uses only five passwords to keep them secure, typing about 10 passwords per day. CSID has a decent report on password usage among American consumers, discovering that as many as 54% consumers have five or less passwords, while another 28% reported using 6 to 10 passwords. Only 18% had more than 10 passwords. 61% of all questioned happily reuse their passwords over and over.

This obviously indicates a huge risk, making all these people susceptible to attacks on their passwords. Why do we have this situation, and what should one do to keep one’s life secure against hacker attacks? Let’s try to find out.

Passwords: Plagued with Problems

Passwords are the most common way of securing the many aspects of our lives. However, password-based protection is plagued with problems. Let’s have a look at why passwords are less than perfect when it comes to security. (more…)

Apple Two-Factor Authentication and the iCloud

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post on hacked Yahoo!, Dropbox and accounts, and how this can start a chain reaction. Companies seem to begin recognizing the threat, and are starting to protect their customers with today’s cutting edge security: two-factor authentication.

A word on two-factor authentication. In Europe, banks and financial institutions have been doing this for decades. Clients needed to enter an extra piece of information from a trusted media in addition to their account credentials in order to authorize a transaction such as transferring money out of their account. For many years, bank used printed lists of numbered passcodes serving as Transaction Authentication Numbers (TAN). When attempting to transfer money out of your bank account, you would be asked to enter a passcode number X. If you did not come up with the right code, the transfer would not execute. There are alternatives to printed TAN’s such as single-use passwords sent via a text message to a trusted mobile number or interactive TANs generated with a trusted crypto token or a software app installed onto a trusted phone.

Online services such as Microsoft or Google implement two-factor authentication in a different manner, asking their customers to come up with a second piece of an ID when attempting to access their services from a new device. This is supposed to prevent anyone stealing your login and password information from gaining access to your account from devices other than your own, verified PC, phone or tablet.

The purpose of two-factor authentication is to prevent parties gaining unauthorized access to your account credentials from taking any real advantage. Passwords are way too easy to compromise. Social engineering, keyloggers, trojans, password re-use and other factors contribute to the number of accounts compromised every month. An extra step in the authorization process involving a trusted device makes hackers lives extremely tough.

At this very moment, two-step authentication is being implemented by major online service companies. Facebook, Google and Microsoft already have it. Twitter is ‘rolling out two-factor authentication too.

A recent story about a journalist’s Google, Twitter and Apple accounts compromised and abused seems to have Apple started on pushing its own implementation of two-factor authentication.

Two-Factor Authentication: The Apple Way

Apple’s way of doing things is… different. Let’s look at their implementation of two-factor authentication.