On the Accuracy of Password Strength Meters

Maximilian Golla, Markus Dürmuth

ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security 2018 (CCS '18). Toronto, Canada, October 15-19, 2018


Abstract

Password strength meters are an important tool to help users choose secure passwords. Strength meters can only then provide reasonable guidance when they are accurate, i.e., their score correctly reflect password strength. A strength meter with low accuracy may do more harm than good and guide the user to choose passwords with a high score but low actual security. While a substantial number of different strength meters is proposed in the literature and deployed in practice, we are lacking a clear picture of which strength meters provide high accuracy, and thus are most helpful for guiding users. Furthermore, we lack a clear understanding of how to compare accuracies of strength meters. In this work, (i) we propose a set of properties that a strength meter needs to fulfill to be considered to have high accuracy, (ii) we use these properties to select a suitable measure that can determine the accuracy of strength meters, and (iii) we use the selected measure to compare a wide range of strength meters proposed in the academic literature, provided by password managers, operating systems, and those used on websites. We expect our work to be helpful in the selection of good password strength meters by service operators, and to aid the further development of improved strength meters.

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Tags: accuracy, password strength meter, user authentication