Protecting Touch: Authenticated App-To-Server Channels for Mobile Devices Using NFC Tags

Carvalho Ota Fernando Kaway, Michael Roland, Michael Hölzl, René Mayrhofer, Aleardo Manacero

Mobile Systems, Mobile Networks and Mobile Cloud: Security, Privacy and Digital Forensics, 2017

Traditional authentication methods (e.g. password, PIN) often do not scale well to the context of mobile devices in terms of security and usability. However, the adoption of Near Field Communication (NFC) on a broad range of smartphones enables the use of NFC-enabled tokens as an additional authentication factor. This additional factor can help to improve the security as well as usability on mobile apps. In this paper we evaluate the use of different types of existing NFC tags as tokens for establishing authenticated secure sessions between smartphone apps and web services. Based on this evaluation, we present two concepts for a user-friendly secure authentication mechanism for mobile apps, the Protecting Touch (PT) architectures. These two architectures are designed to be implemented with either end of the spectrum of cheap and widely-available NFC tags while maintaining a reasonable trade-off between security, availability, and cost.