Sean Oesch and Scott Ruoti, University of Tennessee
Password managers have the potential to help users more effectively manage their passwords and address many of the concerns surrounding password-based authentication. However, prior research has identified significant vulnerabilities in existing password managers; especially in browser-based password managers, which are the focus of this paper. Since that time, five years has passed, leaving it unclear whether password managers remain vulnerable or whether they have addressed known security concerns. To answer this question, we evaluate thirteen popular password managers and consider all three stages of the password manager lifecycle—password generation, storage, and autofill. Our evaluation is the first analysis of password generation in password managers, finding several non-random character distributions and identifying instances where generated passwords were vulnerable to online and offline guessing attacks. For password storage and autofill, we replicate past evaluations, demonstrating that while password managers have improved in the half-decade since those prior evaluations, there are still significant issues; these problems include unencrypted metadata, insecure defaults, and vulnerabilities to clickjacking attacks. Based on our results, we identify password managers to avoid, provide recommendations on how to improve existing password managers, and identify areas of future research.
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