Birthday, Name and Bifacial-security: Understanding Passwords of Chinese Web Users


Ding Wang and Ping Wang, Peking University; Debiao He, Wuhan University; Yuan Tian, University of Virginia


Much attention has been paid to passwords chosen by English speaking users, yet only a few studies have examined how non-English speaking users select passwords. In this paper, we perform an extensive, empirical analysis of 73.1 million real-world Chinese web passwords in comparison with 33.2 million English counterparts. We highlight a number of interesting structural and semantic characteristics in Chinese passwords. We further evaluate the security of these passwords by employing two state-of-the-art cracking techniques. In particular, our cracking results reveal the bifacial-security nature of Chinese passwords. They are weaker against online guessing attacks (i.e., when the allowed guess number is small, 1∼104) than English passwords. But out of the remaining Chinese passwords, they are stronger against offline guessing attacks (i.e., when the guess number is large, >105) than their English counterparts. This reconciles two conflicting claims about the strength of Chinese passwords made by Bonneau (IEEE S&P'12) and Li et al. (Usenix Security'14 and IEEE TIFS'16). At 107 guesses, the success rate of our improved PCFG-based attack against the Chinese datasets is 33.2%~49.8%, indicating that our attack can crack 92% to 188% more passwords than the state of the art. We also discuss the implications of our findings for password policies, strength meters and cracking.

USENIX Security '19 Open Access Videos Sponsored by
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {236340,
author = {Ding Wang and Ping Wang and Debiao He and Yuan Tian},
title = {Birthday, Name and Bifacial-security: Understanding Passwords of Chinese Web Users},
booktitle = {28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-06-9},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {1537--1555},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

Presentation Video