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This week's Risky Business has a pretty long segment on this: https://risky.biz/RB494/

I think it's a less bad alternative for people using the same password on everything. As many comments here already pointed out, it's not perfect. I don't feel like I know enough about it to know just how good it will be for the average person.

See also: that SQRL thing Steve Gibson has been working on for years?




I've never talked to anyone who took SQRL seriously, or even seriously looked at it for flaws. The problem with secure login isn't that you can't invent some random ad-hoc crypto protocol to log into sites with; it's that what you come up with has to be so credible that lots of sites, and eventually browsers, will implement it. SQRL is not that.


SQRL is actually a reasonably well-designed authentication system; certainly better than passwords at least. But as you said, few if any sites ever bothered to implement it. There's just no incentive for sites to adopt a new authentication method when passwords already "work fine" from their perspective.

Hopefully the web authentication standard won't suffer the same fate. It _is_ backed by several major companies (Google, Microsoft, Mozilla) so at least they'll be able to kickstart adoption by implementing the API on their own sites.


SQRL has been debunked. Google quickly returns https://security.blogoverflow.com/2013/10/debunking-sqrl/ but there are plenty other critical reviews.


Yes, I've seen that post. It's very misleading, to the point of being flat-out wrong.

> Authentication and identification is combined

This is plain false. There's nothing in the spec that says you can't give a site your email address, and there _is_ a built-in way to revoke credentials in the spec.

> Single point of failure

This is dumb. Password managers have exactly the same flaw and nobody seems to have a problem with that.

> Social Engineering attacks

This true, but only in exactly the same way that password managers are vulnerable. (If the user is for whatever reason not using a browser plugin to authenticate, _and_ you can trick them into entering their info on the wrong site.)


Thanks for a thorough reply. I'll take a new look at it, even though it's pretty clear SQRL is long dead.


I think SQRL is pretty silly and not an especially well-designed protocol but this debunking post is not great either.


Why? What makes it well-designed? To me, it looks like a sort of especially clunky marriage of SRP and one of those deterministic password managers, with an off-putting extra QR code step.


The QR code is just for when you want to authenticate on a computer you don't have the client software installed on. Otherwise it pretty much functions like an improved version of a password manager that uses public key authentication instead of bearer tokens.


What's "improved" about this? What makes this better than SRP and a password manager?


Never heard of SRP before, so I have no idea how it compares. As for password managers, SQRL has the following advantages:

1. Easier to set up new accounts. No fiddling with onerous password requirements or text boxes; just one click and you're done.

2. More secure and/or convenient than password managers when signing in on a public computer (scan QR code with phone vs. load entire password DB onto computer or manually retype password via keyboard)

3. Better recovery against the worst-case scenario of database leak (SQRL client can transparently and automatically rotate your credentials, vs having to do it all manually with a password manager, and there's no list of sites you have an account on that the attacker can use against you)

4. Possible for sites to enforce the use of SQRL, whereas password managers need a password field to function, thereby encouraging users to continue insecure practices like weak passwords and password reuse.

5. Public keys instead of bearer tokens means you don't have to worry about rotating credentials if a site leaks its database.

Like I said, it's pretty much just a password manager, but better.


SQRL's biggest advantage over other proposals for a password replacement was that it didn't need buy-in from browser vendors to work.

At this point though it seems pretty likely that the Web Authentication Standard has successfully overcome that barrier. It's already partially implemented in multiple browsers (Chrome, Firefox) and backed by a W3C Candidate Recommendation. In the face of that, I don't believe SQRL can compete.


> I don't feel like I know enough about it to know just how good it will be for the average person.

It's the successor of the work Google did with Yubico that eventually led to Fido U2F. Google did some user research about the rollout amongst their 50k employees at the time: [Security Keys: Practical Cryptographic Second Factors for the Modern Web](http://fc16.ifca.ai/preproceedings/25_Lang.pdf).




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