Tutorial :How to avoid key-loggers when authenticating access



Question:

As per the title really, just what can be done to defeat key/keystroke logging when authenticating access?

I have just posted a related question (how-to-store-and-verify-digits-chosen-at-random-from-a-pin-password) asking for advice for choosing random digits from a PIN/password. What other reasonably unobtrusive methods might there be?

Any and all solutions appreciated.


Solution:1

A hardware-based keylogger will not be fooled by any solution that requires the use of a keyboard. So, to bypass those you will need to have input through the mouse only. But software-based keyloggers can be stopped by adding a keyboard hook in your own code which captures the keys and which does not call the next hook procedure in the hook list. But keyboard hooks tend to trigger antivirus software if used incorrectly and will cause bugs if you use them in any dynamic library with the wrong parameter.
And basically, a keylogger will use a keyhook to capture keystrokes. By adding your own keyhook on top of the malware keyhook, you'll disable the keylogger.
However, there are keyloggers that hide deeper in the kernel so you'd soon end up with a keylogger that will bypass your security again.

Don't focus too much on the danger of keyloggers, though. It's just one of the many methods that hackers use to get all kinds of account information. Worse, there's no way that you can protect your users from social engineering tricks. Basically, the easiest way for hackers to get account information is by just asking their victims for this information. Through fake sites, false applications and all kinds of other tricks they could just collect any information that you're trying to protect by blocking keyloggers. But keyloggers just aren't the biggest dangers.


One suggestion was to use pictures of cute kittens (or puppies) for the user to click on. What you could do is use a set of 10 pictures and let the user pick four of them as their "pincode". Then, whenever the user needs to enter their code, display the pictures in any random order so hackers have no use for it's location. If it's a web application, also give the pictures a random name, and just let the server know which is which. To make it even more complex, you could create 10 sets of 10 pictures, where every picture displays a single object but from a slightly different perspective, different angle or in a different color. Set 1 would be a chair, set 2 a table, set 3 a kitten, set four a puppy, etc. The user then just needs to remember: Table, kitten, chair, puppy. (Or puppy, chair, chair, table. Or kitten, puppy, puppy, puppy...)


Solution:2

One solution to defeat keyloggers is to not care if they capture what you type.

One time passwords (search: "OTP") are one solution. Smartcard authentication is another.


Solution:3

You could have a clickable image with the letters on it. Your users will be pretty mad though...


Solution:4

You can allow to use only on-screen keyboard to enter password.

Or you can write module (on flash for example) for handwriting (via mouse or stillus) passwords recognition.


Solution:5

The only real way is a proper second factor authentication: Either something the person is: fingerprint, iris scan. Or something they have: one-time password list/generator; crypto-generator.


Solution:6

Assuming that only keyboard, and not mouse input is captured, you could type the password out of order moving the cursor with the mouse.

I really like the one time approach better, though.


Solution:7

How about a variation of standard password. For example you could have a list of words and have program leave out random letters from each word. In addition to that it would leave out one word from the list which user would have to remember and type it out.
If the words form a sentence, it would be easier or users to remember it but on the other hand creation of the sentence would be more difficult because you'd need to use words which can't be guessed from sentence's context.
Another variation of this could be to have program at random ask user to replace all letters i with 1 or a with 4 or to place say letter R after every third letter A or something similar.

Basically have a password which would be modified at random and have it instructions displayed to user how to modify the password.

Now that I think of it, I'm not sure how unobtrusive my ideas are...


Solution:8

The online banking portal of my bank has a nice way that I find very unobtrusive. When creating the account, you define a 6 digit PIN (additional to a normal password). After entering your password, you're asked for 2 digits of the 6 digit PIN at 2 random positions. For example, if your PIN is 654321, it'll ask your for digits 2 and 5 and you'll click on 5 and 2 (it has a numpad with digits to click on). Even if you'd enter the digits with your keyboard, it would still be kind of safe because the attacker won't know which digits you've been asked for (unless he captures the screen as well, maybe using tempest).

So, short answer: Ask only for some parts of the password/PIN, in random order. Having the user use the mouse increases security.

One more idea: If you have a PIN (numerical password), ask the user for modifications of certain digits, e.g. "2nd digit plus 3, 4th digit minus 1".


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