OpenID to avoid Phriend Phishing on Twitter?

Johannes Ernst suggests that using OpenID might be a good way to avoid phriend phishing on Twitter:

Should have guessed that Phriend Phishing was first going to happen to somebody famous.

Now, how could that have been prevented?

What if:

  • Twitter adopted OpenID as the only way of authenticating.
  • Twitter showed the authenticated OpenID identifier instead of a (possibly made up) user handle on all tweets.
  • Kanye West would have used his official website URL as his OpenID.
  • Ergo, everybody could follow the OpenID to determine whether any phriend phishing is going on or not.

I admit that scenario is not entirely viable yet. For example, users are not familiar and comfortable enough yet with OpenID that a major-volume site like Twitter could switch to OpenID-only. But it’s close, and that’s the kind of adoption barriers that we need to work on over the next 12-18 months in the OpenID community.

I don’t know how OpenID can help solve this issue. Changing someone’s Twitter ID to his authenticated OpenID is not helping us forward. These are the reasons.

First, OpenID’s are assigned on a first-come first-served basis. I can pick any OpenID provider and register “http://BradPitt.<openidprovider>.com”. Even when some OpenID providers are going to validate your request, others won’t so users have no clue what to assume about an OpenID.

Second, even when you pick your homepage as your OpenID (using some mechanism of OpenID delegation), the user has no way to know which one of these is the right one:

http://www.bradpitt.com/
http://www.brad-pitt.com/
http://www.brad-pitt.org/
http://www.BradAndAngelina.com/

And last, what happens if someone is also named “Brad Pitt”? Is he not allowed to claim the OpenID “http://www.bradpitt.com/”?

I think OpenID has many added values, especially in the world of social media, but for the moment I don’t think owner assurance is one of them. With OpenID I can be fairly sure the Tweet came from someone owning that particular OpenID. But OpenID does not guarantee me that the names used in the OpenID URL itself are pointing to the owner.

Share

Leave a Reply