Password typographical error resilience in honey encryption (2023)

Volume 87,

November 2019

, 101411

Author links open overlay panel, , , ,


Honey encryption (HE) is a novel password-based encryption scheme that is secure against brute-force attacks even if users’ passwords have min-entropy. However, in HE, decryption with an incorrect key produces fake messages that appear valid. Hence, password typographical errors may confuse even legitimate users. This has been one of the most challenging problems in HE. To tackle this challenge, we propose three types of protocols that enable legitimate users to detect password typographical errors in HE. We conducted a theoretical analysis and performed an IRB-approved user study with 150 participants to compare the performance of each scheme. We also analyzed the security of the proposed schemes against online and offline brute-force attacks. The results from the user study and theoretical analysis show that the proposed schemes can effectively solve the typographical error problem of HE, which can detect typographical errors with 99% accuracy.


Password-based encryption (PBE) (Abadi, Warinschi, 2005, Kaliski) is one of the most widely used encryption algorithms for securing data by exploiting user-supplied password as an encryption key. However, most users tend to choose passwords that are easy to remember (Taneski, Hericko, Brumen, 2014, Wiedenbeck, Waters, Birget, Brodskiy, Memon, 2005). This causes password strength to be weaker and produces low-entropy passwords, leaving PBE vulnerable to online and offline guessing attacks (Gennaro, Lindell, 2003, Kelsey, Schneier, Hall, Wagner, 1997). Recently, Juels and Ristenpart proposed a novel encryption scheme called honey encryption (HE) (Juels and Ristenpart, 2014). Although users’ chosen passwords are used to encrypt private data as in PBE, HE can provide stronger security beyond unbounded brute-force attacks by employing Distribution-Transforming Encoder (DTE) frameworks. DTE can be designed for specific applications (e.g., credit card numbers and genomic data protection (Huang, Ayday, Fellay, Hubaux, Juels, 2015, Juels, Ristenpart, 2014)).

However, HE has some limitations in detecting typographical errors in a password, which is the most challenging problem to solve. The main problem of password typographical errors in HE is that they may confuse legitimate users because decrypted ciphertext with an incorrect key produces valid-looking but incorrect messages even to legitimate users who own the messages. Therefore, legitimate users can be also confused and misled by the produced fake messages owing to their typographical errors in their passwords. In fact, in many systems, users commonly make mistakes when typing their passwords. According to a recent study (Chatterjee etal., 2016), 42% of workers in the experiment tended to make at least one typographical error per 100,000 submissions (Chatterjee etal., 2016). Therefore, the password typographical error problem should be addressed in order to improve security strength and usability in HE.

Although some of the previous research addressed the importance of this password typographical error problem in HE (Huang, Ayday, Fellay, Hubaux, Juels, 2015, Juels, Ristenpart, 2014, Juels, Rivest, 2013), the researchers simply made suggestions about how to solve the typographical error problem in general rather than providing any concrete scheme construction with formal security proof or performance analysis.

In this paper, we propose the following three different typographical error detection schemes in HE and present the respective threat models to solve the password typographical error problem: (1) a one-factor scheme, (2) a two-factor scheme, and (3) a hash-based scheme. The one-factor scheme is designed for a conventional client-server model. While it is the simplest yet, it is the most efficient scheme among the three approaches. However, it suffers from a comparatively higher false positive rate than the other schemes.

To improve the one-factor scheme, the two-factor scheme is designed as an extended system with an additional database manager. The two-factor scheme provides higher typographical error detection accuracy by utilizing additional side information in the form of a personal identification number (PIN). However, this may burden users by forcing them to memorize the side information in addition to the password.

The hash-based scheme solves the side information issue of the two-factor scheme by exploiting online message verification in the same system environment as the two-factor scheme. The online verification protocol guarantees message recovery (MR) security, while not relying on additional side information except the password itself. The contributions of this paper are summarized as follows:

  • We propose three different practical typographical error detection schemes as well as threat models to tackle challenging problems in HE. The proposed schemes enable a user to detect broader types of password typographical errors than the previously discussed generic typographical error-correction schemes (Chatterjee etal., 2016). In addition, our schemes provide high resiliency against typographical errors.

  • We analyze the performance and message recovery (MR) security of each scheme in a formal game-based model in consideration of online and offline brute-force attacks.

  • We compare the empirical performance of each scheme through a user study approved by our Institutional Review Board (IRB) with 150 participants. The results show that our schemes can detect typographical error with high accuracy, which demonstrates that the proposed schemes are highly usable.

  • To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that has proposed detailed schemes to resolve the typographical error problem in HE with formal security proofs and analyses.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section2 presents the background of our research. Section3 describes the system and security goals. In Section4, we propose three typographical error-resilient solutions for HE. Then, we analyze the false positive rate, false negative rate, and typographical error detection accuracy of the proposed solutions in Section5. In Section6, we further discuss the limitations of our current work, and summarize our findings. Finally, Section7 offers our conclusions.

Section snippets


In this section, we briefly introduce research that is directly relevant to the honey encryption scheme and its typographical error problem.

System description and security goals

In this section, we describe the overall system architecture, and formally define notations we use in this work. In addition, we explain the details of the threat models we consider and the security goals we aim to achieve for each approach.

Proposed schemes

In this section, we propose three typographical error-resilient solutions for HE for different system environments: a one-factor scheme, a two-factor scheme, and a hash-based scheme. For each scheme, we describe the details of the system model, threat model, and protocol construction. Then, we analyze the pros and cons of each scheme in this section.

Theoretical typographical error detection accuracy

The typographical error detection accuracy is defined in terms of the following true positive and true negative:

  • True positive. The probability of determining that a user made typographical errors in a password when he did enter an invalid password.

  • True negative. The probability of determining that a user typed a valid password when he did enter the original password.

  • Typographical error detection accuracy. The sum of true positive and true negative.

By calculating the typographical error

Summary, discussion, and limitations

The typographical error problem is one of the major challenges and open problems of the HE scheme. It is a clearly defined problem but is also difficult to solve. We discuss the reasons for the difficulty of solving the typographical error problem in the HE scheme. We make the following two assumptions:

  • The only difference between a legitimate user and an adversary is that only the legitimate user knows the original password.

  • The HE scheme assumes a powerful adversary who is allowed to take an


HE is a novel encryption scheme that provides security beyond the brute-force bound. However, it has a typographical error problem in that password typographical errors may confuse legitimate users because decryption produces fake, yet valid appearing messages even when incorrect keys are used. For this reason, typographical error handling is a more critical and challenging problem for HE than for other password-based schemes. In this paper, we proposed three different schemes: a one-factor


This work was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MSIP) (No. 2016R1A2A2A05005402 and 2017R1C1B5076474). This work was also supported by an Institute for Information & Communications Technology Promotion (IITP) grant funded by the Korean government (MSIP) (No. 2017-0-00380, Development of next generation user authentication), and the ICT Consilience Creative program (IITP-2017-R0346-16-1007).

Hoyul Choi is currently pursuing the M.S. degree in Department of Computer Science and Engineering, College of Informatics, Korea University, Republic of Korea.

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    What is the honey encryption algorithm? ›

    Honey encryption is a type of data encryption that "produces a ciphertext, which, when decrypted with an incorrect key as guessed by the attacker, presents a plausible-looking yet incorrect plaintext password or encryption key."

    What are the advantages of honey encryption? ›

    Honey Encryption (HE) is an encryption scheme that can provide security beyond the brute-force bound. If an adversary obtains a copy of a hashed password database or a file that has been encrypted with PBE, they can mount an offline brute-force attack.

    What is the strongest password encryption algorithm? ›

    To the time of writing, SHA-256 is still the most secure hashing algorithm out there. It has never been reverse engineered and is used by many software organizations and institutions, including the U.S. government, to protect sensitive information.

    What is the best encryption algorithm for passwords? ›

    To protect passwords, experts suggest using a strong and slow hashing algorithm like Argon2 or Bcrypt, combined with salt (or even better, with salt and pepper). (Basically, avoid faster algorithms for this usage.) To verify file signatures and certificates, SHA-256 is among your best hashing algorithm choices.

    What are three advantages of honey? ›

    In addition to its use as a natural sweetener, honey is used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial agent. People commonly use honey orally to treat coughs and topically to treat burns and promote wound healing.

    Why is encryption better than password? ›

    Encryption goes one step further than password protection and is an easy and effective way to lessen the likelihood of a privacy breach. Encryption scrambles information so that it is unreadable without a passcode.

    What is the weakest encryption algorithm? ›

    Encryption algorithms such as TripleDES and hashing algorithms such as SHA1 and RIPEMD160 are considered to be weak. These cryptographic algorithms do not provide as much security assurance as more modern counterparts.

    What is the only encryption method that is unbreakable? ›

    There is only one known unbreakable cryptographic system, the one-time pad, which is not generally possible to use because of the difficulties involved in exchanging one-time pads without their being compromised. So any encryption algorithm can be compared to the perfect algorithm, the one-time pad.

    What is the fastest encryption algorithm? ›

    Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) Algorithm

    The Advanced Encryption Standard is the most common and extensively used symmetric encryption algorithm that is likely to be encountered nowadays (AES). It has been discovered to be at least six times quicker than triple DES.

    What is the most secure encryption algorithm 2023? ›

    CyberGhost VPN uses AES-256 encryption to protect your data over the internet. This encryption algorithm is considered to be one of the most secure and is commonly used by government and military organizations. AES-256 uses a 256-bit key to transform plaintext data into ciphertext.

    What is the best encryption algorithm 2023? ›

    The winner, a group of cryptographic algorithms called Ascon, will be published as NIST's lightweight cryptography standard later in 2023. The chosen algorithms are designed to protect information created and transmitted by the Internet of Things (IoT), including its myriad tiny sensors and actuators.

    What type of encryption does Tesla use? ›

    TESLA is a symmetric cryptographic algorithm that creates asymmetry by the delayed release of keys used to authenticate signatures called Message Authentication Codes (MACs).

    What is the disadvantage of honey? ›

    Overconsumption of honey may lead to weight gain, allergies, infant botulism (a serious gastrointestinal condition that occurs in infants up to age 12 months), high blood sugar levels, diarrhea, food poisoning, bleeding, and tooth decay. Hence, take it in moderation to avoid any reactions.

    What is the most useful honey? ›

    Manuka has both antiviral and antibacterial properties. Its healing abilities come from methylglyoxal (MGO). Because Manuka honey has high concentrations of MGO, it is one of the healthiest kinds of honey on the planet.

    What are the three major components of honey? ›

    However, generally honey has a content of 80–85% carbohydrates, 15–17% water, 0.3% proteins, 0.2% ashes and minor quantities of amino-acids, phenols, pigments and vitamins (Bogdanov et al., 2008, Miguel et al., 2017). Beside these other components are also found in minor concentration.

    What is the possible downfall of using a honeypot? ›

    Deploying them is very easy, and they require very few resources. The biggest disadvantage of honeypots is that experienced hackers can detect and avoid them easily.As they simulate services most likely to be requested by attackers, honeypots with low interaction provide very limited insight and control.

    What is the weakness of honeypot? ›

    Narrow Field of View. The greatest disadvantage of honeypots is they have a narrow field of view: They only see what activity is directed against them.

    What is a potential risk of using a honeypot? ›

    Honeypot security has its limitations as the honeypot cannot detect security breaches in legitimate systems, and it does not always identify the attacker. There is also a risk that, having successfully exploited the honeypot, an attacker can move laterally to infiltrate the real production network.

    Which encryption method is most widely used and why? ›

    5. Which encryption method is most widely used and why? AES and 3DES are the most widely used encryption method as it is strong and cannot be broken easily. The encryption of each data block happens with random salt making it complex and adding another layer of security to it.

    Why is encryption not the best solution for password storage? ›

    Encryption may sound like a strong way to store passwords, but it's really just a step above plaintext. An encrypted password can generally be decoded with a key, and if the hackers can find or guess it, the encryption is useless.

    What encryption algorithm does the US government use? ›

    AES encryption uses a “symmetric block cipher” or encryption algorithm developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1997 to make government data less susceptible to brute force attacks.

    What is Hummingbird cryptographic algorithm? ›

    Hummingbird uses four identical block ciphers Eki (i = 1, 2, 3, 4) in a consecutive Manner consisting of substitution-permutation (SP) network with 16-bit block Size and 64-bit key as shown in the following figure. The block cipher consists of four regular rounds and a final round.

    What encryption algorithm does VPN use? ›

    The “key” to decipher these chains can be 128, 192, or 256 bits long, each progressively harder to break. The best VPNs typically use AES-256 to encrypt user data. Public-key encryption: Symmetric encryption has one flaw — in order for the two sides to understand one another, they must share the cipher key.

    What is the encryption algorithm for API? ›

    The API uses either AES 128-bit or AES 256-bit encryption. AES 256-bit data encryption provides a higher level of data encryption than AES 128-bit data encryption.

    What are the three main encryption algorithms? ›

    Encryption Algorithms
    • Triple DES Encryption. Triple DES was designed to replace the original Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm, which hackers learned to defeat with ease. ...
    • RSA Encryption. ...
    • Advanced Encryption Standards (AES)

    What algorithm is the most widely used encryption standard in use today? ›

    AES has become the most popular algorithm used in symmetric key cryptography. The transparent selection process established by NIST helped create a high level of confidence in AES among security and cryptography experts.

    What are the four cryptographic algorithms of NIST? ›

    The four algorithms contribute to NIST's ongoing post-quantum cryptographic standard, and will be finalized in roughly two years. They are available on NIST's website, and are referred to as Crystals-Kyber, Crystals-Dilithium, Falcon and SPHINCS+.

    Which authentication algorithm is most secure? ›

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    Can NSA crack VPN? ›

    The computers would then return the key. Security researchers Alex Halderman and Nadia Heninger also presented convincing research suggesting that the NSA did develop the capability to decrypt a large number of HTTPS, SSH, and VPN traffic. This attack is known as Logjam.

    What is the strongest encryption for VPN? ›

    What is the most secure VPN protocol? Many VPN experts recommend OpenVPN as the most secure protocol. It uses 256-bit encryption as a default but also offers other ciphers such as 3DES (triple data encryption standard), Blowfish, CAST-128, and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).

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    BEST PRACTICE Use the AES encryption algorithm and avoid DES and other nonstandard algorithms. NIST recommends that “All keys need to be protected against modification, and secret and private keys need to be protected against unauthorized disclosure.

    What algorithm is used the most to encrypt messages? ›

    1. RSA Asymmetric Encryption Algorithm. Invented by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman (hence “RSA”) in 1977, RSA is, to date, the most widely used asymmetric encryption algorithm.

    Which encryption algorithm is best NIST? ›

    Currently, the most efficient NIST-approved technique for AEAD is the Advanced Encryption Standard (defined in FIPS 197) used with the Galois/Counter Mode (SP 800-38D), and for hashing, SHA-256 (defined in FIPS 180-4) is widely used.


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