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DiceKeys Unveils A Master Password For Life With One Roll

MODERN CYBERSECURITY, DONE with properly paranoid best practices, requires meeting some tough demands: Carry a physical two-factor key to plug in and authenticate yourself on a new computer, but if you lose or break that tiny piece of plastic you could be locked out of your accounts. Use different, totally unguessable passwords for every website, without repeating them or writing them down. And even if you opt for a password manager—as you should—you’ll need to remember a long master password for years, or risk losing access to the rest of them.

Or you could reduce all of that complexity to a single roll of 25 dice into a plastic box. This week Stuart Schechter, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, is launching DiceKeys, a simple kit for physically generating a single super-secure key that can serve as the basis for creating all the most important passwords in your life for years or even decades to come. With little more than a plastic contraption that looks a bit like a Boggle set and an accompanying web app to scan the resulting dice roll, DiceKeys creates a highly random, mathematically unguessable key. You can then use that key to derive master passwords for password managers, as the seed to create a U2F key for two-factor authentication, or even as the secret key for cryptocurrency wallets. Perhaps most importantly, the box of dice is designed to serve as a permanent, offline key to regenerate that master password, crypto key, or U2F token if it gets lost, forgotten, or broken.

You just roll the dice,” says Schechter, who presented DiceKeys in a talk at the Usenix Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security last week and is now offering preorders of the kits on Crowd Supply for $25, expected to ship in January of next year. “Instead of having to enter a big secret when you want to do something that requires a super-strong password, you can just scan them in.”

In fact, Schechter intends for most DiceKeys users to only ever roll their set once. After shaking the keys in a bag, the user dumps them into their plastic box, then snaps the lid closed to permanently lock them into place. The user then scans the dice box with the DiceKeys app—currently a web app hosted at DiceKeys.app—that accesses their laptop, phone, or iPad camera. That app generates a cryptographic key based on the dice, checking the barcode-like symbols on the faces to ensure it interpreted the dice’s characters and orientation correctly. Despite the current version of the DiceKeys app being hosted on the web, Schechter says that it’s designed so that no data ever leaves the user’s device.

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Thanks to the different numbers and letters on each key face as well as the dices’ orientations, the resulting arrangement has around 196 bits of entropy, Schechter says, meaning there are 2196 different possibilities for how the dice could be positioned. Schechter estimates that’s roughly as many possibilities as there are atoms in four or five thousand solar systems. “With modern technology, you can’t really build a computer big enough to guess this number without crushing yourself under its gravity,” he says.

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