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That looks like a good idea, but why not go one step further? Provide a common API interface for password changes.

Think about it: If you assume your pw manager database is compromised - what do you do? Go to a hundred webpages and change your password? probably not. Your PW Manager can't provide a feature to do it for you. But it could if there was such an API.






This is the sort of scope creep that stops good things from happening. Sure, a full api for password changes sounds great. But why is that related to this project at all?

This project is something that will take approximately 5 minutes to implement, and probably not much more to design the "spec" in the first place. and as is, it does something worthwhile. A huge complex project in a related area isn't a replacement or an alternative, just a tangentially related thing that should have no bearing on this project. A .well-known url for password changes can provide real benefit for real people now, even though it doesn't do everything.


I'm very sympathetic to creating a password change API, but having a button that takes me straight there would certainly save my time and make me dread the process a lot less.

Next on that list would be "update my payment methods". Of course websites love complicating our lives by hiding it in multiple different places, so that may be of limited utility.


Just to be clear: I think this is a good project.

I also have taken 5 minutes to implement it in a system that I'm responsible for already.


On that note though, if we start using standard APIs for this sort of thing, I question whether we should just go farther and "solve" the problem.

Ie, as a dumb example, why should I expect them to implement an API for my password manager, and instead not simply allow oauth where my pass manager becomes my token provider?

Doesn't that fake example solve both problems, while also getting rid of bizarre password churn? Sure, it has the downside of "what happens when my password provider is compromised.." but that's always true, right?

An API for password managers feels like a solution to a problem we've created.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of reducing password churn. I'm just not sold on this specific method of handling it.


That's effectively what U2F provides. You can "nop" the password by using a bad password that you can trivially remember, and then your U2F token is, effectively, your only authentication.

I don't know what features U2F tokens support, but if they can be password protected I don't see why U2F being the only auth factor would be bad. You could even have the token itself attest to being password protected so you could require that of users before allowing them to disable non-U2F passwords.


I think you answer yourself already. You expect this:

> simply allow oauth where my pass manager becomes my token provider

to be a simpler implementation then "PUT https://blabla.com/change-password" or whatever a password change request would look like?


That "simpler implementation" of PUT https://example.com/magic-api/change-password has all sorts of security concerns you aren't considering. How do you stop "rogue" password managers from using it? How do you stop replay and man-in-the-middle attacks?

The other poster is correct that immediately people would jump to using OAuth as one solution to manage which password manager apps can access that change password flow somewhat securely. At which, yes, why not just invert the OAuth flow and find better ways to make the Password Manager the provider rather than https://example.com and maybe eliminate the password entirely from the equation while we are at it.


> How do you stop replay and man-in-the-middle attacks?

Replay what? Me setting my password over HTTPS? How?

The sample URL was deliberately just an example. It would surely need more thought but i'm pretty sure the "PUT ..." solution is simpler then throwing oAuth at the problem.

So you're confident that the same people who can't secure the simple PUT request are better suited to implement the custom oAuth solution you are talking about? And that will be secure? I'd bet against that.


I'm saying that the closest thing we have to a well-adopted standard for securing a "simple PUT request" for something as security critical as a password is called OAuth.

You need CSRF tokens to avoid replay attacks. You need some way for an app to Authorize: that they have permission to update someone's password. That's probably some sort of application whitelist. That application whitelist probably needs a permissions flow for a user to agree that Password Manager Brand X is indeed their password manager application of choice. Do we have a standard for such permission flows and app-specific bearer tokens? Oh look, it's OAuth that says "hi".


You're clearly far too deep into the oAuth mindset:

  - You don't need "persmissin flows"
  - You don't need "to update *someone's password" (just your own!)
  - You don't need an "application whitelist" because HTTP doesn't know what an application is
All you need is to say "hey, here is my current password/hash. Update it to this one." on a secure channel (let's say, HTTPS). Alternatively "Hey, i am XYZ and this cookie tells you so. Update my password to XXX". I'm pretty sure there are a gazillion ways to securely make a request to some URL to update a password.

You're clearly not thinking of repercussions of having an open REST endpoint that anyone on the internet could just curl/postman/httpie to change someone's password.

Good password change forms have had CSRF tokens for decades now: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/CSRF_token

There are many known attacks whereby an attacker changes someone's password to control an account.

I don't care about OAuth at all. It's not an "OAuth mindset", it's a "I wouldn't trust a website at all in 2018 if it had an unsecure PUT endpoint to change my password" mindset.

HTTPS alone is not sufficiently secure. It's a start, but it is nowhere near enough on its own. SSL MITM attacks and Phishing are still problems today.

Requiring my current password isn't necessarily sufficient either: password cracking botnets exist. If the first sign that your password was cracked is that your password was changed to something only your attacker knows, that's not great. This is also where replay attacks come in. An attacker MITM or phishes this endpoint, and social engineers you into thinking you need to change your password, they get your old and new password together in one nice bundle.

Cookies aren't a sufficient answer for similar reasons. Again, take a look at cross-site request forgery issues and the history of replay attacks on password forms.

Application whitelists are a minimal security precaution to mitigate some botnets and phishing algorithms. HTTP does know what an application is, we often see application blacklisting done the hard way with User Agent strings and IP address ranges. Whitelisting is a more secure approach, but a lot harder to do securely (and why we have standards like OAuth; OAuth isn't the only answer, it's just the current easiest answer).


> that anyone on the internet could just curl/postman/httpie to change someone's password.

But that's my point. Keep it simple, let my password manager (be it on my mobile, laptop or whereever i want) change my password! Yes, i'd like that.

You don't even need that CSRF token, i don't know why. To prove your identity you'll only need to prove that you know you your password. That's possible, securely. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Remote_Password_protoco... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-knowledge_password_proof

Why do you need an application whitelist?! The website i am visiting isn't whitelisting my browser, so why would it need to whitelist my password manager?


How lucky for you in 2018 that you don't seem to have any trouble with botnets trying to crack your passwords, hack your accounts, or even just break your accounts so that you cannot use them.

Exactly. Most password leaks seem to come from hacked websites and thus badly implemented security. And that's another point i was making: Keep it simple but secure, so that implementors have it simple and don't mess it up.

Can you point me to some source for botnets which crack passwords? I would be surprised. It's not feasible to brute-force a password over HTTP.


My Steam account has had high entropy, sole use passwords cracked in the timeframe of months, which would seem to indicate (if Valve is not leaking [1]) a botnet using their "simple" HTTPS login endpoints to brute force passwords. So far Steam Guard (2FA) has stopped the attacks, but that doesn't make me feel that much better given the speed in which the passwords seem to be cracking.

That's just one account I see as currently most at risk. There are plenty of others I'm concerned about as well.

Passwords are fragile, brittle things. "Simple" security is no longer an answer when dealing with passwords. FULL STOP. It's time we moved past passwords altogether, but even where we can't, we absolutely have to be serious about password security from top to bottom.

You can victim blame "hacked websites" for "badly implemented security" all you want, but that's part of the point, too. Password infrastructure will always be lowest common denominator, because it is "easy", because it is "simple". Everyone thinks they can implement password security, and everyone is wrong. There are still people that don't hash, much less salt, their passwords in 2018. There are still people that don't realize "Security Questions" are Plaintext Passwords and a giant security risk. In the age of bitcoin mining there is no such thing as a hashed or salted password that cannot be brute forced. Bitcoin mining is password brute force at massive scale, and dropped rainbow table hardware to the price floor.

I'm sorry that you still have any illusions left that passwords are and/or can be "simple". Passwords are dead and yet we're all going to be fighting that forest fire for decades to come.

[1] Which admittedly, is a possibility, but it would be a surprising shock for an application as big as Steam.


"That application whitelist probably needs a permissions flow for a user to agree that Password Manager Brand X is indeed their password manager application of choice."

This scares me. Are you proposing it as something that is necessary, or something that is necessary as part of the parent poster's suggestion to use HTTPS + PUT? If the former, how does this scale across the multiple platforms I use? Ugh. Scary.


I'm saying it as a baseline of something necessary to use HTTPS PUT for automated password change solutions, to keep them even reasonably safe. I don't want every possible application on the internet with the ability to change my password, so of course I want a whitelist of applications that could ever possibly do that on my behalf. That seems like one clear, important requirement to me.

You are right, it doesn't scale well.

To me (and one of the posters above) it's just more proof that password infrastructure in general doesn't scale very well (because security attack surface scales proportionally), and that we really need a better solution. "Simple password change HTTP PUT REST API standard" is a security nightmare, and we should all be afraid of the mere idea of it. We should instead be looking to get rid of passwords altogether, for something that maybe does scale better. Such as the suggestion above that it would be better to try to sketch an API that asks our password/token managers to log us in, rather than the other way around, like an SSH Agent or an OAuth/OpenID provider or some better standard we could attempt to devise.


I'm not sure if I misunderstand what you are getting at but if you are talking about the .well-known/change-password thing that in this post, its just a well known _redirect_ to the regular change password page for that particular website, you cant PUT to it, it requires a human to navigate the page and fill out the password change form.

Unfortunately its not a well-known api endpoint.


I just meant, if we're expecting every site to implement an API to augment the password flow, why even use passwords? Why not get rid of them entirely, and have an API on every website that handles auth? OAuth was just an example of something that could (poorly?) serve as that.

It will take me about 10 minutes combined to set up the redirect in this proposal for all of my websites, with all of their varying auth paradigms.

Implementing some API spec that itself lets you change passwords for each one? No thank you, I have more important things to do.


It has been tried before and failed (REST XML Schema, for one example). Site operators just don't want to maintain two complete copies of their password change infrastructure (one for people, one for programmable interaction).

The current system puts more work onto the password managers themselves, but realistically even if there was a generic API, the sites themselves aren't generic, each one requires a different series of steps with unique error messages, etc. So while an API would save some work, password managers would still need bespoke steps per site.


>Site operators just don't want to maintain two complete copies of their password change infrastructure (one for people, one for programmable interaction).

Seems like the issue isn't the idea, it's the way they're implementing it.

Shouldn't it be ui(api(pwd changing code)), not ui(pwd changing code) + api(pwd changing code)?

> even if there was a generic API, the sites themselves aren't generic, each one requires a different series of steps with unique error messages

Again this sounds like an implementation issue, not an idea issue.

People can use all of kinds of weird status codes if they like as long as they implement 200, 401 and 500. Those three cover the bases.

And I don't think the proposal covers any site-specific options and could standardize on key naming (`email`, `password`, `username`, etc) Password managers already keep this info and more, I think LastPass will even store your credit cards and has profiles so you can swap between business, personal and other info.


> Site operators just don't want to maintain two complete copies of their password change infrastructure (one for people, one for programmable interaction)

Couldn't the former use the latter?


Because it's a hard problem to solve, not technology-wise, but due to people. So it's best solved one step at a time. And a bait-and-switch model might just do it: First, overcome initial organizational inertia by a dead simple spec. It's so simple, an admin can implement it without asking anyone else for resources.

When it's done, the website is a good citizen to password managers, everyone is happy.

At some point, extend the spec, and display complying websites with a nice symbol. Then, after a while, display non-complying websites with a bad symbol. And a decade later, we're done ;)


Dashlane has that feature [0], though not for all sites of course. I haven't tried it out but I don't see why they couldn't have it working for say the 1000 most popular sites, which would cover at least half of my needs.

[0]https://support.dashlane.com/hc/en-us/articles/202699281-How...


LastPass had a similar feature when I used it. It often broke and was overall unreliable, as all scrapers are wont to be. Worse - when it failed, you couldn't be sure at what point of the process it had done so, leaving your accounts potentially inaccessible.

That's a good point. I guess they should keep the new and the old password until you've successfully logged in with the new one.

I naively assumed that this was the point, but when I read the spec you're right: it's just about hitting the well-known URL and redirecting the browser to the actual change-password URL. Does anybody know why, from the site maintainer perspective, why would I bother to implement this?

Because it takes very little effort and adds convenience for your users, that's why.

The alternative of doing a full API takes much more effort and therefore has little chance of adoption.


Why not? Complexity.

I'd argue this reduces complexity by standardization. Having one system that is used among many sites allows easier verification of potential security pitfalls in that.

Well yeah, its less complex once you've persuaded everyone to adopt and implement it. I'm talking about the adopt and implement stage.

For a polyfill of this functionality, check out pass-rotate: https://github.com/ddevault/pass-rotate

And while we're at it just a common authentication API for http all together, with negotiable features like basic auth/form auth/session cookie/jwt/oauth/api token/csrf location/etc. Then we can make clients for every language to just log in to a website if you have the credentials. Web browsers could have a secure authentication widget that bypasses whatever the website has built in. It would be glorious

Don’t forget CORBA support! It’s a must have.



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