ZeTA-Zero-Trust authentication: relying on innate human ability, not technology

Andreas Gutmann, Karen Renaud, Joseph Maguire, Peter Mayer, Melanie Volkamer, Kanta Matsuura, Jorn Muller-Quade

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Reliable authentication requires the devices and channels involved in the process to be trustworthy, otherwise authentication secrets can easily be compromised. Given the unceasing efforts of attackers worldwide such trustworthiness is increasingly not a given. A variety of technical solutions, such as utilising multiple devices/channels and verification protocols, has the potential to mitigate the threat of untrusted communications to a certain extent. Yet such technical solutions make two assumptions: (1) users have access to multiple devices and (2) attackers will not resort to hacking the human, using social engineering techniques. In this paper, we propose and explore the potential of using human-based computation instead of solely technical solutions to mitigate the threat of untrusted devices and channels. ZeTA (Zero Trust Authentication on untrusted channels) has the potential to allow people to authenticate despite compromised channels or communications and easily observed usage. Our contributions are threefold: (1) We propose the ZeTA protocol with a formal definition and security analysis that utilises semantics and human-based computation to ameliorate the problem of untrusted devices and channels. (2) We outline a security analysis to assess the envisaged performance of the proposed authentication protocol. (3) We report on a usability study that explores the viability of relying on human computation in this context.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2016
Event2016 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy (EuroS&P) - Saarbrucken, Germany
Duration: 21 Mar 201624 Mar 2016


Conference2016 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy (EuroS&P)


  • authentication
  • semantics
  • protocols
  • servers
  • security of data
  • innate human ability
  • reliable authentication
  • ZeTA protocol

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