USENIX 2021 – paper accepted
SBA’s paper “On the Usability of Authenticity Checks for Hardware Security Tokens” by Katharina Pfeffer, Alexandra Mai, Adrian Dabrowski, Matthias Gusenbauer, Philipp Schindler, Edgar Weippl, Michael Franz, and Katharina Krombholz has been accepted at the 30th Usenix Security Symposium. The conference will take place from August 11th -13th, 2021.
The final responsibility to verify whether a newly purchased hardware security token (HST) is authentic and unmodified lies with the end user. However, recently reported attacks on such tokens suggest that users cannot take the security guarantees of their HSTs for granted, even despite widely deployed authenticity checks. We present the first comprehensive market review evaluating the effectiveness and usability of authenticity checks for the most commonly used HSTs. Furthermore, we conducted a survey (n=194) to examine users’ perceptions and usage of these checks.
We found that due to a lack of transparency and information, users often do not carry out -or even are not aware of- essential checks but rely on less meaningful methods. Moreover, our results confirm that currently deployed authenticity checks suffer from improperly perceived effectiveness and cannot mitigate all variants of distribution attacks. Furthermore, some authenticity concepts of different manufacturers contradict each other. In order to address these challenges, we suggest (i) a combination of conventional and novel authenticity checks, and (ii) a user-centered, transparent design.