PASTA: Password-based Threshold Authentication

We introduce and formalize a new notion of password-based threshold token authentication, which protects password-based authentication against single point of failures. Specifically, we distribute the role of a single server among n servers and allow any t servers to collectively verify clients’ passwords and generate tokens, while no t-1 servers can forge a valid token or mount offline dictionary attacks. We then introduce PASTA, a general framework wherein clients can sign on using a two-round (optimal) protocol that meets our strong security guarantees.

Our experiments show that the overhead of protecting secrets and credentials against breaches in PASTA, i.e. compared to a naive single-server solution, is extremely low (1-5%) in the most likely setting where client and servers communicate over the internet. The overhead is higher in case of MAC-based tokens over a LAN (though still only a few milliseconds) due to public-key operations in PASTA. We show, however, that this cost is inherent by proving a symmetric-key only solution impossible.

Based on joint work with Shashank Agrawal, Payman Mohassel, and Pratyay Mukherjee:

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