Identity Pathology

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Full Title or Meme

A list of various ways in which identity information can be misused or misappropriated on the internet.


User private data is required for release of web resources. Minimizing the amount of data released or its misuse after release is the object of this effort to collect a list of the various attacks and their mitigations.

There are three entities that are in play here.

  1. The user on a user device (aka a user agent) possibly with some of the User Information resident in the cloud at a user_info_endpoint.
  2. The resource provider (aka a Relying Party.)
  3. Identifier or Attribute Providers.

The page on Identity Theft describes an Identity Pathology involving another party that has traditionally not been treated the same way as other Data Controllers, the Credit Reporting Agencies. See that page for more details on attacks against financial accounts.


Threats against authentication, federation or user private data, as that can be used in spoofing.

  • Attacks at the user device or user agent.
    • User private data, including credentials used in authentication or secret seed value.
    • Theft of user device or second factor token
    • Data of the user's contacts' email address for spamming.
    • Insertion of malware on the user's device.
    • Interception of legitimate user connections to valuable resources, including elevation of priviledge.
  • Attacks on the transmission of user private data.
    • Interception of legitimate user connections to steal authentication data.
    • Misdirection or misleading connection to attacker sites.
    • Hijacking a legitimate user connection (Man in the middle attacks).
  • Spoofing attacks at the resource site.
    • Online guessing, when user lock-out or time-out is not applied.
    • Binding of attacker's token to the user's profile at the resource
    • Reuse or Replay of user credentials
      • User reliance on passwords alone is known to result in password reuse, so if an attack succeeds on one site, it may work on others.
    • Using data acquired by social engineering, such as using a pretext for the user to enable the authentication.
      • Complex passwords that are unique to one site or service will force users to write down passwords which can be found.
    • Initiating connections through other compromised sites, including compromised Identifier or Attribute Providers.
  • Misuse of user private data.
    • Releasing data to others.
    • Data breaches.
    • Social engineering at provider based on partial knowledge of user private data
  • Social engineering at the user level


  • These are the mitigations that should be considered based on the risk profile for the resource being protected.
  • "Malware" encompasses computer viruses (code injection), computer worms, ransomware, spyware, adware, trojan horses, keyloggers, rootkits, malicious Browser Helper Object (BHOs) etc.
  • What's an identity exploit worth? How about up to $100,000.[1]
  • Detecting Abuse of Authentication Mechanisms National Security Agency | Cybersecurity Advisory. (2020-12)


  1. Microsoft Identity Bounty Program