Exploring Authentication for Security-Sensitive Tasks on Smart Home Voice Assistants

Ponticello, Alexander and Fassl, Matthias and Krombholz, Katharina
(2021) Exploring Authentication for Security-Sensitive Tasks on Smart Home Voice Assistants.
In: Seventeenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, August 8-10, 2021, Virtual Conference.
Conference: SOUPS Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security


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Smart home assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home are primarily used for day-to-day tasks like checking the weather or controlling other IoT devices. Security-sensitive use cases such as online banking and voice-controlled door locks are already available and are expected to become more popular in the future. However, the current state-of-the-art authentication for smart home assistants consists of users saying low-security PINs aloud, which does not meet the security requirements of security-sensitive tasks. Therefore, we explore the design space for future authentication mechanisms. We conducted semi-structured interviews with N = 16 Alexa-users incorporating four high-risk scenarios. Using these scenarios, we explored perceived risks, mitigation strategies, and design-aspects to create secure experiences. Among other things, we found that participants are primarily concerned about eavesdropping bystanders, do not trust voice-based PINs, and would prefer trustworthy voice recognition. Our results also suggest that they have context-dependent (location and bystanders) requirements for smart home assistant authentication. Based on our findings, we construct design recommendations to inform the design of future authentication mechanisms.


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