Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Lisa Calkins, Mamoon Yunus

Related Topics: Cloud Security

Cloud 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 writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com

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
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, will examine the regulations and provide insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence a...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, discussed new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of security i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. 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 devic...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...