This research paper aims to investigate how secure the Windows password storage and user authentication are by examining the storage location and security measures of the login password of a Windows 7 device, as well as the process of authenticating login attempts, along with various attacks on the password and the difficulty of obtaining or bypassing the login password or authentication protocol. The paper will address the Windows registry, hash values, and the NTLM authentication protocol suite. After establishing a basis for how the password is stored and secured, along with how the user is authenticated, the paper continues by looking at the various attacks that may be implemented to gain entry to the target computer. These attacks are divided into two overarching classes: attacks that involve directly cracking the password and the attacks that focus on the user authentication protocols. After an overview of the attacks, the paper discusses the difficulty of implementing and executing these attacks, considering resources, online vs. offline implementations, and time required to execute. With all of this, the conclusion reached is that the security of the login password storage and user authentication protocol is sound and difficult to successfully break without time, resources, and physical access to the target computer.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 2017


Shuangteng Zhang

Mentor Professional Affiliation

Computer Science

Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



Computer Science