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Stop Password Masking
From: lonervamp at gmail.com (Michael Dickey)
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 10:00:58 -0500

Why to unmask? I can only think of two reasons:
a. Visual cue that capslock is on
b. Visual cue that our typing is f*[]cked

A warning on capslock solves a, and taking your time after the third try
should solve b.

Why not unmask?
1. shoulder-surfing

I don't know many people who use truly random-like passwords, even amongst
security paranoids. Who wants an admin account like jeND592)(sd..e[RTGf?

No, even we make passwords like LAClipp3rsS*ckAg4inThisY4ar!
Sure, complex password. Sure, lots of combinations of letters and number
substitution. But you reveal a lot in even the quickest glimpse and nearly
immediate recognition of the phrase.

It's already common courtesy to look away as someone types a password just
in case I see them type qwerty123! () #  An unmasked password is worse for a
computer screen.

Mobile phones are typically far more discreet.

As a final note, one of the important pieces of a masked password is the
assurance that no one else knows it, effectively. If someone startles you
from behind as you typed your password, do we still have the ability to
irrefutably say it was you that deleted that file server share? Or do we
have doubt that maybe that gaggle of gossipers behind you saw your password
and did it?





 On Fri, Jun 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM, Aaron <subdriven at gmail.com> wrote:

I read an interesting article about removing the mask from passwords.
For mobile devices I think it would be a great idea. For some
desktops, I know it would cut down on support calls. In other
instances I think they must stay masked. I was just wondering what the
rest of the PDC list thought. I have links to the articles below.

Summary:
Usability suffers when users type in passwords and the only feedback
they get is a row of bullets. Typically, masking passwords doesn't
even increase security, but it does cost you business due to login
failures.


Main article here: (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/passwords.html)

which was also posted to slashdot here
(
http://it.slashdot.org/story/09/06/25/1856214/Nielsen-Recommends-Not-Masking-Passwords
)

Regards,

Aaron
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