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In the modern connected world, pervasive computing has become reality. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile computing devices and emerging cloud-based services, the users permanently stay connected to their data. This introduces a slew of new security challenges, including the problem of multi-device key management and single-sign-on architectures. One solution to this problem is the utilization of secure side-channels for authentication, including the visual channel as vicinity proof. However, existing approaches often assume confidentiality of the visual channel, or provide only insufficient means of mitigating a man-in-the-middle attack. In this work, we introduce QR-Auth, a two-step, 2D barcode based authentication scheme for mobile devices which aims specifically at key management and key sharing across devices in a pervasive environment. It requires minimal user interaction and therefore provides better usability than most existing schemes, without compromising its security. We show how our approach fits in existing authorization delegation and one-time-password generation schemes, and that it is resilient to man-in-the-middle attacks.
Date of Conference: 26-28 Oct. 2011