AI

Protecting accounts from credential stuffing with password breach alerting

Abstract

Protecting accounts from credential stuffing attacks remains burdensome due to an asymmetry of knowledge: attackers have wide-scale access to billions of stolen usernames and passwords, while users and identity providers remain in the dark as to which accounts require remediation. In this paper, we propose a privacy-preserving protocol whereby a client can query a centralized breach repository to determine whether a specific username and password combination is publicly exposed, but without revealing the information queried. Here, a client can be an end user, a password manager, or an identity provider. To demonstrate the feasibility of our protocol, we implement a cloud service that mediates access to over 4 billion credentials found in breaches and a Chrome extension serving as an initial client. Based on anonymous telemetry from nearly 670,000 users and 21 million logins, we find that 1.5% of logins on the web involve breached credentials. By alerting users to this breach status, 26% of our warnings result in users migrating to a new password, at least as strong as the original. Our study illustrates how secure, democratized access to password breach alerting can help mitigate one dimension of account hijacking.