Lost and not Found An Investigation of Recovery Methods for Multi-Factor Authentication.pdf (851.51 kB)

Lost and not Found: An Investigation of Recovery Methods for Multi-Factor Authentication.

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posted on 2024-02-08, 10:14 authored by Sabrina AmftSabrina Amft, Sandra Höltervennhoff, Nicolas Huaman, Alexander KrauseAlexander Krause, Lucy Simko, Yasemin Acar, Sascha FahlSascha Fahl
Multi-Factor Authentication is intended to strengthen the security of password-based authentication by adding another factor, such as hardware tokens or one-time passwords using mobile apps. However, this increased authentication security comes with potential drawbacks that can lead to account and asset loss. If users lose access to their additional authentication factors for any reason, they will be locked out of their accounts. Consequently, services that provide Multi-Factor Authentication should deploy procedures to allow their users to recover from losing access to their additional factor that are both secure and easy-to-use. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to first-hand investigate the security and user experience of deployed Multi-Factor Authentication recovery procedures. We first evaluate the official help and support pages of 1,303 websites that provide Multi-Factor Authentication and collect documented information about their recovery procedures. Second, we select a subset of 71 websites, create accounts, set up Multi-Factor Authentication, and perform an in-depth investigation of their recovery procedure security and user experience. We find that many websites deploy insecure Multi-Factor Authentication recovery procedures and allowed us to circumvent and disable Multi-Factor Authentication when having access to the accounts' associated email addresses. Furthermore, we commonly observed discrepancies between our in-depth analysis and the official help and support pages, implying that information meant to aid users is often either incorrect or outdated


Primary Research Area

  • Empirical and Behavioral Security





Sub Type

  • Article


@article{Amft:Höltervennhoff:Huaman:Krause:Simko:Acar:Fahl:2023, title = "Lost and not Found: An Investigation of Recovery Methods for Multi-Factor Authentication.", author = "Amft, Sabrina" AND "Höltervennhoff, Sandra" AND "Huaman, Nicolas" AND "Krause, Alexander" AND "Simko, Lucy" AND "Acar, Yasemin" AND "Fahl, Sascha", year = 2023, month = 1, journal = "CoRR" }

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