Welcome!

Security Authors: Gilad Parann-Nissany, Paige Leidig, David H Deans, Colin Lacey, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Security

Security: Blog Feed Post

Why Passwords Will Remain Relevant: Duress

Duress password expiry is an interesting policy issue

With the continued rise in home-based and mobile working, the possibility of people being forced to access and potentially modify data during encounters with ne’er-do-wells becomes a genuine security issue.

For example, while there haven’t been many cases reported yet, the time will come when the kid lurking in the alley with the switchblade, isn’t just going to want to part you from your smartphone or tablet, but is also going to want to part you from the contents of your bank account, with it. A recent issue of FSTech (http://www.fstech.co.uk/), a UK-based financial services technology magazine, stated that banks are concerned about the lack of uptake of mobile banking solutions; my guess is that the duress situation, is one of the reasons people are averse to doing their banking “on the go”.



There are actually three categories of duress, these being:

  • local: a threat to your person, which will be exercised unless you do what you are told (eg: a gun to your head)
  • divorced: a threat to your family or other people you personally care about (and who are in a different location), which will be exercised unless you do what you are told (eg: a gun to your wife’s head)
  • remote: a threat to individuals unknown to you, which will be carried out unless you do what you are told (eg: a bomb in a populated area).

Taking this into account, it’s possible that a well-designed system which authenticates users based on a username and password would require up to 4 passwords per user – one for legitimate login in a normal situation, and three more, one for each type of duress! All these different categories may be required, as different workflow actions would be desirable based on the nature of the duress; although depending on differences in actions between duress types, some categories may be collapsible. For example: Local duress:

  • log me in, increase the level of user activity logging on my account, start signing logs to ensure evidential integrity (if not done already)
  • take snapshots of databases to which I have access, my home directory, etc, such that activities I perform can be rolled back
  • alert security or law enforcement personnel as to my location and the fact I’m in peril, request their intervention

Divorced duress:

  • log me in, increase the level of user activity logging on my account, start signing logs to ensure evidential integrity (if not done already)
  • take snapshots of databases to which I have access, my home directory, etc, such that activities I perform can be rolled back
  • alert security or law enforcement personnel to my location and the fact that folk I care about are in peril, ensure appropriate authorities are informed, but remain on standby

Remote duress:

  • log me in, increase level of user activity logging on my account, start signing logs if not done already
  • start backups / snapshots of databases to which I have access, my home directory, etc, such that activities I perform can be rolled back
  • alert security or law enforcement personnel to the fact that there is a threat to some remote location which can’t be disclosed right now, ensure appropriate authorities are informed, and remain on standby

…or whatever is considered appropriate for the situation, by organisational policy; in the case of a bank being alerted of a duress situation by a customer, transactions between institutions across the SWIFT network would need to be flagged as being allowed to proceed, but in such a manner that they could be reversed once the situation is resolved. While tokens, biometrics etc can all be employed to authenticate individuals to systems, only a password – or some other secret known only to the legitimate user, such as an order in which to press fingers to a biometric reader or a PIN to type into a token – can be substituted for an equivalent but different password to indicate duress, in a manner which cannot be observed and identified by whomever is present and causing the duress. In this respect, in a classic “defence in depth” approach to security, a duress password is “the last line of defence” available to an imperiled user. With access to data and services now being available to a typical individual anywhere there is a 3G signal, the likelihood of users finding themselves under duress at times when they have the ability to connect to systems and engage in transactions will only increase. In terms of implementation, there are three primary places where changes would need to be made in order to implement a duress system:

  1. The user directory schema would need to be extended to include duress passwords
  2. the authentication system itself would need to be extended to support entry and change of duress passwords, as well as requiring a command / control interface to the user transaction systems in order to implement logging and snapshot / rollback changes as required
  3. an out of band alerting system will need to be either installed or updated, to meaningfully communicate duress details

Duress password expiry is an interesting policy issue; I would expect a password would only be required to be changed after use if at all, as its use will hopefully be a very rare event indeed.

More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley, former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is Founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC, a technology research and advisory firm providing fact based technology reviews in support of venture capital, private equity and emerging technology firms. He has extensive industry experience in intelligence and security and was awarded an intelligence community meritorious achievement award by AFCEA in 2008, and has also been recognized as an Infoworld Top 25 CTO and as one of the most fascinating communicators in Government IT by GovFresh.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Harbinger Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Harbinger Systems is a global company providing software technology services. Since 1990, Harbinger has developed a strong customer base worldwide. Its customers include software product companies ranging from hi-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to leading product companies in the US and large in-house IT organizations.
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, will discuss how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, senso...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and tec...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TeleStax, the main sponsor of Mobicents, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TeleStax provides Open Source Communications software and services that facilitate the shift from legacy SS7 based IN networks to IP based LTE and IMS networks hosted on private (on-premise), hybrid or public clouds. TeleStax products include Restcomm, JSLEE, SMSC Gateway, USSD Gateway, SS7 Resource Adaptors, SIP Servlets, Rich Multimedia Services, Presence Services/RCS, Diame...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
As a disruptive technology, Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), which is an emerging standard of web communications, is redefining how brands and consumers communicate in real time. The on-going narrative around WebRTC has largely been around incorporating video, audio and chat functions to apps. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Alex Gouaillard, Founder and CTO of Temasys Communications, will look at a fourth element – data channels – and talk about its potential to move WebRTC beyond browsers and into the Internet of Things.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gigaom Research has been named "Media Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, will also lead a Power Panel on the topic "Choosing the Right Cloud Option." Gigaom Research provides timely, in-depth analysis of emerging technologies for individual and corporate subscribers. Gigaom Research's network of 200+ independent analysts provides new content daily that bridges the gap between break...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.