3576915.3623072.pdf (1.14 MB)

"Make Them Change it Every Week!": A Qualitative Exploration of Online Developer Advice on Usable and Secure Authentication

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conference contribution
posted on 2024-03-20, 10:28 authored by Jan KlemmerJan Klemmer, Marco Gutfleisch, Christian Stransky, Yasemin Acar, M Angela Sasse, Sascha FahlSascha Fahl
Usable and secure authentication on the web and beyond is mission-critical. While password-based authentication is still widespread, users have trouble dealing with potentially hundreds of online accounts and their passwords. Alternatives or extensions such as multi-factor authentication have their own challenges and find only limited adoption. Finding the right balance between security and usability is challenging for developers. Previous work found that developers use online resources to inform security decisions when writing code. Similar to other areas, lots of authentication advice for developers is available online, including blog posts, discussions on Stack Overflow, research papers, or guidelines by institutions like OWASP or NIST. We are the first to explore developer advice on authentication that affects usable security for end-users. Based on a survey with 18 professional web developers, we obtained 406 documents and qualitatively analyzed 272 contained pieces of advice in depth. We aim to understand the accessibility and quality of online advice and provide insights into how online advice might contribute to (in)secure and (un)usable authentication. We find that advice is scattered and that finding recommendable, consistent advice is a challenge for developers, among others. The most common advice is for password-based authentication, but little for more modern alternatives. Unfortunately, many pieces of advice are debatable (e.g., complex password policies), outdated (e.g., enforcing regular password changes), or contradicting and might lead to unusable or insecure authentication. Based on our findings, we make recommendations for developers, advice providers, official institutions, and academia on how to improve online advice for developers.



Meng W ; Jensen CD ; Cremers C ; Kirda E

Primary Research Area

  • Empirical and Behavioral Security

Name of Conference

ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS)



Page Range



Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

Open Access Type

  • Hybrid


@conference{Klemmer:Gutfleisch:Stransky:Acar:Sasse:Fahl:2023, title = {"Make Them Change it Every Week!": A Qualitative Exploration of Online Developer Advice on Usable and Secure Authentication}, author = "Klemmer, Jan H" AND "Gutfleisch, Marco" AND "Stransky, Christian" AND "Acar, Yasemin" AND "Sasse, M Angela" AND "Fahl, Sascha", editor = "Meng, Weizhi" AND "Jensen, Christian Damsgaard" AND "Cremers, Cas" AND "Kirda, Engin", year = 2023, month = 11, journal = "CCS", pages = "2740--2754", publisher = "Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)", doi = "10.1145/3576915.3623072" }