Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Industrial Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Joel S. Greenstein

Committee Member

Mary E. Kurz

Committee Member

Richard Pak

Committee Member

Patrick J. Rosopa


The need for both usable and secure authentication is more pronounced than ever before. Security researchers and professionals will need to have a deep understanding of human factors to address these issues. Due to their ubiquity, recoverability, and low barrier of entry, passwords remain the most common means of digital authentication. However, fundamental human nature dictates that it is exceedingly difficult for people to generate secure passwords on their own. System-generated random passwords can be secure but are often unusable, which is why most passwords are still created by humans. We developed a simple system for automatically generating mnemonic phrases and supporting mnemonic images for randomly generated passwords. We found that study participants remembered their passwords significantly better using our system than with existing systems. To combat shoulder surfing - looking at a user's screen or keyboard as he or she enters sensitive input such as passwords - we developed an input masking technique that was demonstrated to minimize the threat of shoulder surfing attacks while improving the usability of password entry over existing methods. We extended this previous work to support longer passphrases with increased security and evaluated the effectiveness of our new system against traditional passphrases. We found that our system exhibited greater memorability, increased usability and overall rankings, and maintained or improved upon the security of the traditional passphrase systems. Adopting our passphrase system will lead to more usable and secure digital authentication.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.