HASTAC Website Protection System
HASTAC
Website Protection System
…because "Humans are smarter than any computer"
Software Requirements Specification
Academic Supervisor: Dr. Ron Rymon
Presented By: Ronen Mendezitsky
Alon Weiss
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Table of contents
Contents
HASTAC ......................................................................................................................... 1
Software Requirements Specification ........................................................................... 1
Table of contents ............................................................................................................ 2
Overview ........................................................................................................................ 3
Motivation ...............................................................................................................3
The Product ..............................................................................................................3
General Goals ...........................................................................................................3
The Problem ................................................................................................................... 4
The Target Audience – User Characteristics ................................................................. 5
Alternative Solutions to the Problem ............................................................................. 6
Direct:......................................................................................................................6
Indirect ....................................................................................................................8
The Proposed Solution ................................................................................................... 9
The Users .................................................................................................................9
The Environment .................................................................................................... 11
Hardware ............................................................................................................... 11
The Process ............................................................................................................ 11
Use cases ...................................................................................................................... 12
Requirements ............................................................................................................... 16
Domain Definitions.................................................................................................. 18
HASTAC Website Protection System - Installation Procedure ........................................ 18
HASTAC Website Protection System - System Configurations ....................................... 19
HASTAC Website Protection System - Functionality and Operation ............................... 23
The Challenges............................................................................................................. 24
Criteria for Success ...................................................................................................... 24
Initial Plan .................................................................................................................... 24
References .................................................................................................................... 25
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Overview
Motivation
Decreasing the amount of network traffic caused by brute force hacking attempts into
password protected websites and substantially reducing the amount of hacked
accounts caused by these brute force attacks.
The Product
An online security system that will be displayed at the login page of any password
protected website as an extra security measure. The system will add another input
field where the user will have to answer a question embedded in a picture that asks
random questions about that image. A generated image will contain a large amount of
details including randomly generated images and words.
General Goals
Decrease the amount of brute force hacking attempts by relating more human thought
into the login procedure.
Allow easy integration to existing systems, and use as little resources as possible.
Allow future upgrades to the system with plug-ins.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
The Problem
With increasing activity on the web, the quick and comfortable way of purchasing
products, services and information online, more and more websites are being created
to provide online paid services. This sort of development has caused the rapid
increase of attempts to hack into these services providing websites. Websites owners
are not only affected by the hacking of accounts, but more so by the hacking attempts,
and more specifically brute force hacking attempts which increase the bandwidth load
on web servers and can cause reduction in the speed and performance of the website,
and could go as far as causing a DoS (Denial of Service) on the website, which can
cause site owners to create a significant loss of activity on their website.
One of the main reasons for that increased malicious activity is the development of
automated brute forcing programs that use various techniques to find a valid username
and password pairs of active accounts, by using readymade or auto generated
wordlists with a fixed design of "username: password" structure which is commonly
used by most password protected website today, be it a form or a regular pop up login
page. These simple to operate programs allow people without any experience or
knowledge in network and website security to hack into password protected websites
with a push of a button. These attempts cause a very high network activity on the
website, which raises the costs of webmasters even if an account has not been actually
hacked.
In addition to these automated brute force programs, many internet surfers can today
find their way into one of the many communities, whose sole purpose is website
hacking. This brings the "art" of brute forcing into the hands of any capable person,
thus posing a problem for webmasters all over the world at a day to day basis.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
The Target Audience – User
Characteristics
Since the World Wide Web consists of a vast amount of password protected
websites (both internet and intranet), with new websites providing online paid
services launching each and every day, all of them could end up being potential
victims of brute force attack attempts. Our proposed solution offers them an easy to
integrate solution that will decrease the amount of attempts for brute forcing.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Alternative Solutions to the
Problem
Over the years, there have been many attempts to solve the problems of website brute
forcing attempts. Although that conceptually the ability of creating a new type of
security always means that the same security measure can be cracked eventually, even
already existing solutions are being periodically updated in order to fight brute forcing
and other measures of attacks.
In this section, we will review several of these security measures, both in a direct way
and the indirect way.
Direct:
Product:
Vendor:
Link:
Price:
Strongbox
Ray Morris ( bettercgi.com )
http://www.bettercgi.com/strongbox/
150$ per site (one-time)
Strongbox is one of many products that make the use of a 5 letter image-based code
protection. "A CAPTCHATM is a program that can generate and grade tests that most
humans can pass, but current computer programs can't pass." It also features antislurp mechanism, to disable website leeching.
Product:
Vendor:
Link:
Price:
T4wsentry.pl
Fisher Technologies, Inc.
http://www.tools4webmasters.com/t4wsentry.htm
65$ per site (one-time)
T4wsentry.pl is a Perl script that requires the user to log-in from a specific page, in
order to access the restricted area of the website. The login page features a username,
password, CAPTCHA image fields. The server-side script also monitors simultaneous
access by more than one surfer under the same username. Once logged in, the user
receives a cookie with a unique identifier, so the rest of the communication can be
over regular HTTP.
The script operates on the UNIX platform and is widely used in conjunction with the
Apache web server.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Product:
Vendor:
Link:
Price:
Pennywize
Zarvon P/L
http://www.pennywize.com/
30$-170$ (monthly rate)
Pennywize monitors each and every hit on the "members only" pages and tests if a
single account has had too many hits from different IP addresses. Once it finds such
an account, it will be automatically disabled for a predefined period of time. It also
detects IP addresses that have made many failed attempts to access a single account,
or multiple accounts in a predefined time interval. In the latest version (currently 3.0)
Pennywize also handles proxy based attacks.
Product:
Vendor:
Link:
Price:
BotDetect
LANAP software
http://www.lanapsoft.com
60$-100$ per site (one-time)
BotDetect is a CAPTCHA solution which supports up to 50 different CAPTCHA
algorithms at variable length and image size, producing different
file formats (jpeg, gif, png and others). It is a windows-based solution that supports
ASP/ASP.NET alone, using IIS servers.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Indirect
Community portals and services
Community portals and services band together a large group of sites and provide a
readymade protection for all of them. One example for this type of protection is
Microsoft's Passport service which provides access to many services using a single ID
and Password. This is also referred to as "Single-Sign-In". Another example is the
Adult Verification Systems (or AVS) that group together a large amount of websites
under a single username and password.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
With the advent and popularity of Peer-to-Peer networks and Micro-Payments
technologies, some copyright holders publish their content in a non-secured website
or P2P network. These files cannot be played without purchasing a special license that
can be acquired at the vendor's website. This renders brute-force attacks on the
website useless, and the hackers try to 'crack' the protected files instead.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
The Proposed Solution
The Users
The target audience for using "HASTAC" (Humans Are Smarter Than Any
Computer) is the webmaster community of ASP.NET-based websites. (31% of the
web servers worldwide, as shown below)
Basic skills are required to deploy the system (usually a single click for autodeployment). Once installed, the system will be fully automated in such a manner that
it will allow any user to use it in order to access the website through a verified
authentication operation, and will not require any maintenance.
We have created a prototype and managed to generate over 100 Challenge &
Response pairs per second, with minor CPU usage level (around 12%). This means
that the production system should be scalable to even the busiest of websites.
Our market research showed that there is only one competing production-level
product for the ASP.Net platform, and it provides solution of lesser quality.
Apache
Microsoft
Sun
NCSA
Other
Source: http://news.netcraft.com/archives/web_server_survey.html
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Scenario #1
A webmaster of a single website that has no protection and a lot to secure requires
authentication to his sensitive content.
Regular solution: Dividing several web pages into a "secured zone" and an "unsecured
zone".
Our solution: Adding another field of authentication to the login page, in order to
ensure no bots try to hack their way in using brute force attacks.
Scenario #2
A group of webmasters wish to create a single sign-in solution for their websites.
Regular solution: Use existing Active Directory or similar methods. All servers
connect to a centralized account server.
Our solution: Adding another field of authentication to the login page, in order to
ensure no bots try to hack their way in using brute force attacks. The centralized
account server is not accessed until the challenge has been answered correctly, thus
saving precious resources.
Scenario #3
A specific service requires high-fidelity human authentication, such as e-voting
systems, polls, forms filling (registration, 'contact us', questionnaires etc.), public &
free e-mail services, all to avoid mass junk data from being stored or sent using the
service.
Regular solution: Use standard CAPTCHA mechanism
Our solution: Tighten the security with a better performing CAPTCHA, which is
virtually unbreakable by standard OCR tools.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
The Environment
The product is designed for web servers (both corporate intra-nets and Internet):

That run Microsoft Windows Server operating system

That use SQL Server for the user base

That have the .NET Framework 2.0 installed and running

That have IIS 5.0 or 6.0 Installed and configured
Hardware
In our preliminary test, we have succeeded to generate over 100 challenge images per
second on an average home PC with an average CPU load of 12% (This means there
are 100 people trying to log in to the site).
The minimum requirements for our system are imposed by the software that runs on
the server. Naturally, these requirements vary, and depend on the amount of users,
memory, CPU and storage space available.
The Process

When installed, the CAPTCHA module is integrated within the login
mechanism and adds the extra authentication step in order to verify
that a human is on the other end.

When a user logs in to the system, the additional CAPTCHA image
will be displayed and it will require solving the challenge before any
further verification that require database.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Use cases
General Flow:
Start
User freely browses
unsecured zone
Wishes to browse
secured zone
Yes – Log in
No
Existing
user?
Yes
No- Register
Log-in
completed
Failed
User is rejected
Registration
completed
Succeeded
User
Accepted
User is
rejected
User logged in
successfully
Check
system
policy
User has registered,
account is
automatically
activated
User has registered,
account requires
activation
User freely browses
secured zone
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HASTAC Website Protection System
User Registration and Activation:
User registration
User Activation
Display Registration
form
User receives
activation link
Show Challenge
Follows link
Activate account
Verify
Response
Failed
Complete registration
Succeeded
Check
System
policy
Send activation link
Complete registration
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Log-in Flow:
User wishes to log-in
Enters log-in page
Show Challenge.
Request user name
and password
Cookie
exists?
Exists
Fill username &
password fields
Failed
Verify
Response
Successful
Complete log-in process
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Challenge and Response generation:
Challenge & Response generation
User wishes to register
or log-in
Exists
Check DB if pregenerated C&R
exists
Load C&R from
Database
Doesn't
Exist
Create C&R On-thefly
According to system
policy, start
background C&R
generation
Send challenge to user
Challenge & Response verification
Verify user response
against database
Remove record from
database
Return verification result
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Requirements
 Ability to Pre-generate challenge & response pairs, in order to ease the
load on the server on high-traffic periods (such as the holiday's season).
The pre-generation can be either done on another computer or on idle CPU
cycles. Importance: Critical
 Variable Complexity – Be able to change the complexity of the generated image:
Parameter
Value Range
Number of shapes
3-10
Number of colors
3-10
Background patterns
Selection from a list
Optical distortions
0%-100%
Word length
3-20
Salting/Graining
0%-100%
Importance: Critical
 Use many types of fonts, shapes, colors and backgrounds to make it harder
for off-the-shelf brute-force CAPTCHA solvers to penetrate the website.
Importance: Critical
 Fast response to ill-formatted inputs (short passwords, no usernames, bad
answers etc.) – Employ some form of heuristics on the client page before
sending potentially bad data. Importance: Critical
 Plug-in architecture to allow future development of new types of
Challenges and Response types. Importance: Critical
 Larger Challenge & Response Space than current solutions – Provide a
larger C&R space than the existing solutions. Importance: Critical
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HASTAC Website Protection System
 Copyright notice – Embed copyright signature on each generated image in
order to discourage surfers from solving CAPTCHAS harvested from the
original site to aid in auto filling forms. Importance: Medium
 Statistics – Be able to provide meaningful statistics on the performance of
the system such as the graph shown below. Importance: Medium
10%
5%
First attempt
Second attempt
25%
60%
Third attempt
Failed attempts
Successful login attempts between 31/12/2005-31/12/2006
 Provide Back-Office / web service for configuration and/or XML
configuration file. The system should be highly configurable, while still
being simple to operate. Importance: Medium
 Extensibility to other platforms and generators – The solution should be
modular and enable future enhancements (both hardware and software),
and also operate on the popular apache/PHP environments. Importance:
Low
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Domain Definitions
a) Secured zone: A set of web pages and content whose access is limited only to
registered members of the website.
b) Unsecured zone: A set of web pages and content that is available to the
general public.
c) User: A person who wishes to enter the secured zone of a website.
When a user wants to access the website he can either:
a. Access the unsecured zone.
b. Authenticate himself and access the secured zone. (This procedure is
referred to as "Login Transaction"). The authentication consists of
entering an account name and password, and additionally answering a
computer generated challenge.
d) Administrator: Typically the owner of the website. Manages the rules of the
login process to the secured zones of the website and additionally integrates
the "HASTAC website security" software component into the website.
e) Challenge generation process: A process in which the software generates an
number of challenge and response pairs and stores it in the database.
HASTAC Website Protection System - Installation
Procedure
This process consists of four stages:
a) Setting up the database. This is done by "attaching" an existing, blank
database and creating administrative accounts.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
b) Copying the binary file (HASTAC.DLL), the back-office software to the
website server.
c) Integrating the HASTAC component in the login page/component.
d) Configuring the system. (Explained in the next section)
HASTAC Website Protection System - System
Configurations
HASTAC is controlled from a back-office system that will include 5 tabs:
a) Main
b) Configuration
c) Tools
d) Statistics
e) About
Main
The 'Main' section shows general
information about the system:
a) System status
b) System time
c) Number of login transactions
d) Number of pre-generated challenge and response pairs
In addition, it allows changing the system status, reset login transaction counters and a
shortcut to generate more challenge and response pairs.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Configuration
The 'Configuration' section allows the administrator to define different aspects of the
challenge and response generation process.
Number of login attempts
Same difficulty for all attempts
Number of shapes
Number of colors
Background patterns
Optical distortion
Word length
Salting
Image file formats
Copyright notice
Number of allowed login attempts before
a redirection to an "Access Forbidden"
page occurs.
When checked, this option allows to
apply the same difficulty level to all login
attempts. Otherwise, every login attempt
will be configurable.
Average number of shapes shown in each
generated picture.
Average number of colors shown in each
generated picture.
A variety of background patterns
available for each generated picture.
Distort the generated image to harden the
readability of words in order to prevent
OCR mechanisms from cracking the
words inside the generated image.
Varied length of words generated on the
images.
Additional image processing that adds
salt (noise to the picture in order to make
OCR technology difficult to use).
Select from a variation of image file
formats.
A fixed string that will be shown on each
generated picture on a random edge
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Tools
The 'Tools' section allows the administrator to pre-generate challenge & response
pairs in off-peak hours, to ease the CPU in peak hours. It also allows changing the
'pre-generated images' cache size.
Clicking on the "Pre-generate Challenge & Responses Now" button starts a
background process at the server, which generates Challenge & Response pairs.
The timetable allows scheduling the generation process automatically for each day of
the week and each hour of day. On websites with high traffic this will alleviate the
CPU usage during the 'rush hours'.


A red box signifies that the generation process will take place
A clear box signifies that the generation process will take place only when the
Challenge and Response pair cache is empty. Websites with a limited storage,
light traffic and/or low CPU usage may want to leave the boxes unchecked.
The "Generate up to # Challenge & Response pairs" field specifies the maximum
number of Challenge and Response pair to pre-generate.
Taking into account that an average file is 4Kb big, 1 Mb of storage space is
equivalent to 256 Challenge and Response pairs.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
Statistics
The 'Statistics' section
displays meaningful
information about the
successful login attempts,
login traffic, daily login
statistics.
The "Successful login attempts" displays statistics about the percentage of successful
login attempts to the site for each attempt. The shown statistics, for example, shows
that 60% of the users manage to login on their first attempt. 25% of the users manage
to login on their second attempt, 10% on their third attempt, and the rest 5% fail to
login successfully.
The "Image Traffic So Far" field displays the amount of traffic utilized by the
HASTAC Protection system.
The Day login statistics shows the number of login attempt for every day in the
current month.
The Most active accounts shows the top 10 most active accounts.
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HASTAC Website Protection System
HASTAC Website Protection System - Functionality
and Operation
When a user tries to access to protected website area, a challenge and response image
is displayed. The user has to input his account name, password and an additional
answer to the challenge field. (See also flow charts in pages 11,12).
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HASTAC Website Protection System
The Challenges
There are several challenges facing the development of the HASTAC Website
Protection System.
1. The suggested algorithm has no parallel in the website protection field and has
to be written from scratch.
2. Making Question and Answer space be as large as possible.
3. The system has to consume as little bandwidth as possible (preferably less
than 5 Kilobytes for each Challenge Image)
4. The CPU utilization should be minimal, even during the generation process
5. SQL Database access and HDD I/O should be minimal.
6. Image manipulation algorithms should be developed to render OCR useless.
7. The system has to be user friendly, both to the user and to the website
administrator.
8. The system should be upgradable with plug-ins.
Criteria for Success
Success: Meeting all the requirements described above.
Failure: Poor integration, Challenge & Response quality, and resource usage. Bad
plug-in support.
Initial Plan
The plan for HASTAC Website Protection System Top Level Design will be as
follows:
1. Research and Development of the HASTAC algorithm
2. Research brute-force techniques of CAPTCHA-protected websites.
3. Investigate integration methods with current ASP.NET websites.
4. Build administration interface ("Back-Office") for the system
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HASTAC Website Protection System
5. Define the main software modules and their integration
6. Perform stress-testing on the algorithm
References
1. http://www.bettercgi.com/strongbox/ (StrongBox)
2. http://www.tools4webmasters.com/t4wsentry.htm (T4WSentry)
3. http://www.lanapsoft.com (BotDetect)
4. http://www.pennywize.com (PennyWize)
5. http://www.captcha.net/ (The CAPTCHA Project)
6. http://www.firepages.com.au/captcha.htm (A different approach for
CAPTCHA, based on image recognition and counting)
7. http://news.netcraft.com/archives/web_server_survey.html (Web-server
platform statistics)
8. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8246463980976635143 (Dr. Luis
von Ahn from Carnegie Mellon University talking about current CAPTCHA
technology and its disadvantages)
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Software Requirements Specification