Daily Archives: 2012-02-22

Social authentication – harder than it looks!

This is the title of a paper we’ll be presenting next week at the Financial Crypto conference (slides). There is also coverage in the New Scientist.

Facebook has a social authentication mechanism where you may be asked to recognise some of your friends from photos as part of the login process. We analysed this and found it to be vulnerable to guessing by your friends, and also to modern face-recognition systems. Most people want privacy only from those close to them; if you’re having an affair then you want your partner to not find out but you don’t care if someone in Mongolia learns about it. And if your partner finds out and becomes your ex, then you don’t want them to be able to cause havoc on your account. Celebrities are similar, except that everyone is their friend (and potentially their enemy).

Second, if someone outside your circle of friends is doing a targeted attack on you, then by friending your friends they can get some access to your social circle to collect photos, which they might use in image-recognition software or even manually to pass the test.
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