Microsoft Abandoning Passwords For A Different Obsolete Security Mechanism?

from the unintended-consequences... dept

Just a day after Microsoft admitted they're going to ditch passwords alone for two-factor authentication in the upcoming Longhorn operating system, Bruce Schneier is explaining why two-factor authentication is no longer secure. He's speaking specifically about banks using two-factor authentication (generally your username/password plus a token that is generating a new random number every minute), but it certainly applies to the Microsoft announcement as well. Basically, the argument is that two-factor authentication doesn't protect against active attacks, like man-in-the-middle or trojans -- both of which piggyback on the user successfully logging in with the two factor authentication. While it does prevent some of the more basic fraud, the prediction is just that scammers will move up the scale, and start focusing more on these kinds of active attacks. Of course, it does still prevent scammers from logging in on their own. They can only piggyback off an existing connection. However, it is a good reminder that scammers are always going to figure out some way around whatever technology becomes common for security.

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  1. identicon
    nonuser, 15 Mar 2005 @ 2:07pm

    no (practical) safeguard will prevent every attack

    That's Schneier's message and it's well taken. But that doesn't mean universal adoption of two-factor authentication isn't a good idea. Hardware has advanced to the point where eight-byte passwords are practically useless.

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