Friday, November 11, 2011

A Disciplined Approach to Talking About Security

Recently, a thread about a security problem in a piece of open source software got a lot of attention. There was a vulnerability report, a defensive developer, persistent security folks, and of course sideline comments taking one side or the other. This discussion perfectly illustrates why it can be hard to have a civil discussion about security, and why even with the best of intentions and with skilled developers, security problems can persist in a software system.

Read More at the Galois Blog

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Passwords are past their prime

Passwords are past their prime. Users are buried under the weight of too many passwords, and most of us constantly struggle with these password conundrums: Simple passwords are easy to guess, but complex passwords are hard to remember. Writing passwords down means not having to remember them, but it also means they might get stolen. Sharing passwords between accounts means that if one account has a password database spill, all the accounts are compromised.

Animate Login replaces passwords with mobile phones and replaces typing passwords with scanning a barcode on that phone. The phone uses two-dimensional barcodes to make a link between the user’s browser session and the physical presence of the user, then utilizes the phone’s Internet connection to send a long and complex shared secret to the web site to prove the user is who he/she claims to be.

Read More on G+

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cloud Security Risk Agreements for Small Businesses

Cloud computing can be particularly beneficial to small businesses since it can decrease the total cost of ownership for IT systems. Unfortunately, one of the major barriers to adoption of cloud services is the perception that they are inherently less secure, exposing the organization to unacceptable risk. There are standard processes for managing security risk that can help businesses make trade-off decisions, but these processes currently cannot be applied to cloud computing since the security details of cloud services are not typically available to small businesses. This lack of information leads to a lack of trust: small businesses cannot evaluate the security of cloud services. This paper proposes an approach for cooperation between cloud vendors and small businesses based on the NIST Risk Management Framework. Security Risk Agreements would address the lack of trust so that small businesses can confidently adopt cloud services, benefiting both small businesses and cloud vendors.

HTML and PDF versions at

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quick authentication using mobile devices and QR Codes

In this blog post, we propose an authentication scheme using QR codes and Internet-connected smart phones to allow a user to quickly sign into a web site without having to memorize or type in a username and password. The user only has to prove that they are in possession of their mobile phone. We've developed a demonstration app and web site for this approach which you can try if you have an Android smartphone. Or you can watch the video demonstration. We have also started work on a draft REST protocol, and welcome feedback.

Read More at the Galois Blog.