Skip to Main Content
For decades, the password has been the standard means for user authentication on computers. However, as users are required to remember more, longer, and changing passwords, it is evident that a more convenient and secure solution to user authentication is necessary. This paper examines passwords, security tokens, and biometrics-which we collectively call authenticators-and compares these authenticators and their combinations. We examine their effectiveness against several attacks and suitability for particular security specifications such as compromise detection and nonrepudiation. Examples of authenticator combinations and protocols are described to show tradeoffs and solutions that meet chosen, practical requirements. The paper endeavors to offer a comprehensive picture of user authentication solutions for the purposes of evaluating options for use and identifying deficiencies requiring further research.
Date of Publication: Dec 2003