Articles taggués ‘otpw one time password’

OTPW – A one-time password login package

17/06/2016 Comments off


otpw one time passwordThe OTPW package consists of the one-time-password generator otpw-gen plus two verification routinesotpw_prepare() and otpw_verify() that can easily be added to programs such as login or ftpd on POSIX systems. For platforms that support the Pluggable Authentication Method (PAM) interface, a suitable wrapper is included as well. Login software extended this way will allow reasonably secure user authentication over insecure network lines. The user carries a password list on paper. The scheme is designed to be robust against theft of the paper list and race-for-the-last-letter attacks. Cryptographic hash values of the one-time passwords are stored for verification, either in the user’s home directory or in a dedicated system directory.


A well-known classic vulnerability of the Internet application protocol suite is the frequent cleartext transfer of passwords in the telnet, rsh, and ftp protocols. Modern replacements for these protocols such as Tatu Ylönen’sSecure Shell allow comfortable and secure remote sessions and file transfers over network connection that are not trusted to provide confidentiality.

However, traveling computer users often want to connect to their home system via untrusted terminals at conference hotels, other universities, and airports, where trusted encryption software is not available. Even Secure Shell does not protect against keyboard eavesdropping software on the untrusted terminal. A loss of confidentiality is often acceptable in these situations for the session content, but not for reusable login passwords. One-time-password schemes avoid the transmission of authentication secrets that are of any value after they have been used. This provides a reasonable level of protection against the widely encountered password sniffing attacks. The goal of a one-time-password login scheme is merely to provide a significant increase of security over the classic telnet/rlogin login procedure. It does not aim to protect from sophisticated active attacks such as session hijacking, host emulation, man-in-the-middle, etc. against which ssh and SSL based protocols should be used if this level of protection is required.

A widely known one-time-password scheme is S/KEY [Hal94, HM96]. OTPW is not compatible with and is not derived from either S/KEY or OPIE. It is a completely independent and different design, which I believe fulfils my functional and security requirements better.

How it works

One-time password authentication with the OTPW package is accomplished via a file containing hash values of passwords. Depending on the installation option chosen, this can either be a file ~john/.otpw located in the user’s home directory, or it can be a file ~otpw/john in the home directory of a dedicated pseudo user “otpw”. In the latter case, the otpw-gen tool for generating new passwords must be owned by pseudo user “otpw” and have the SETUID bit set. As long as users do not have such a hash file, the one-time-password facility is not active for them.

A user who wants to setup the one-time-password capability just executes the otpw-gen program. The program will ask for a prefix password that the user has to select and memorize and it will then write to standard output a password list such as:

  OTPW list generated 2003-08-31 21:06 on

  000 IZdB bqyH  006 rF62 k6zi  012 JCFe 6at3  018 uaYT azuu  024 Nt7n b=fQ
  001 yCSo /VQs  007 Phvb =6ZW  013 8Pm7 DbYJ  019 OdAk H62c  025 /pOm :ZEA
  002 mESf  nWK  008 J9fH iXrn  014 MAds 6TTS  020 Aj6W 9O4P  026 DhCc yrPY
  003 x4vX HXr2  009 DGPC amts  015 B=xZ waPx  021 MzUP Ahsc  027 UWTe G3Fh
  004 A5z9 japt  010 s6cr xwZ5  016 sCgq Da5Y  022 Q=XK 4I7w  028 xszW Ha9L
  005 YCcA k29/  011 inn6 Rsa/  017 m8za o/HB  023 umS= gYoU  029  HmG Rr6P

              !!! REMEMBER: Enter the PREFIX PASSWORD first !!!

Normally the output of otpw-gen should be sent directly to the printer as in

  otpw-gen | lpr

or should be first formatted with an ASCII to PostScript converter where necessary.

Fetch the printed list immediately from the printer, fold it, and keep it with you. The list shows the machine name and the creation time to allow users to find the latest list for the right machine. It does not show the user’s name, because nobody is supposed to have the list of anyone else, but printer drivers such as a2ps might add it. Only a single list is required for a set of networked machines on which the user has a common home directory.

By default, otpw-gen generates 60 lines of output. Use the command line options -h lines, -w columns, and -s pages to specify the length of the output. No more than 1000 passwords will be generated at a time.

Where one-time-password authentication is used, the password prompt will be followed by a 3-digit password number. Enter first the prefix password that was given to otpw-gen, followed directly (without hitting return between) by the password with the requested number from the printed password list:

  login: kuhn
  Password 019: geHeimOdAkH62c

In this example, geHeim was the prefix password. The spaces in the password list are just there to increase readability and can be dropped.

A clever attacker might observe the password being entered and might try to use the fact that computers can send data much faster than users can finish entering passwords. In the several hundred milliseconds that the user needs to press the return key after the last character, an attacker could on a parallel connection to the same machine send the code of the return key faster than the user.

To prevent such a race-for-the-last-key attack, any login attempt that is taking place concurrently with another attempt will require three one-time passwords to be entered:

  login: kuhn
  Password 022/000/004: geHeimQ=XK4I7wIZdBbqyHA5z9japt

This might look inconvenient at first, but remember that three passwords will only be requested when someone tries to login simultaneously, which in itself should already cause suspicion. The three requested passwords are randomly selected but they will never include the single password that was requested in the first of the concurrent login attempts. Only the first requested single password will be locked, not any of the requested triples. This way, the three-password method ensures that an attacker cannot disable the OTPW mechanism by locking all passwords. The triple challenge ensures that many ten thousand network connections would be necessary to perform a race attack on the same password triple, which is not practical. The OTPW package creates a symbolic link .otpw.lock in the user’s home directory to lock the first requested password while its input is pending. If a system crash created a stale lock, it will be removed after 24 hours.

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