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Just designing the forgotten password form for a retailer.

When researching other retailers, I've have noticed the temporary password link that gets sent to inbox's expire after a few hours. What is this reason for this?

I'm wondering whether we need to do this or not?


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This is probably more about security than UX – Sebastian Negraszus Jul 10 '13 at 9:41
This is mostly a security question, I think. Although you might get some useful info from this question:… – JonW Jul 10 '13 at 9:41
I don't see how being a security question make it any less of a UX question. It's like saying that a design question is mostly a usability or sale question, therefore not UX. The way you design a password/identification system is a UX question with consequences for the security of the system (and its usability, and conversion/sales, etc.) – Gala Jul 10 '13 at 10:39
@GaëlLaurans I think the issue is that the optimal UX solution may be at odds with the optimal Security solution, so it depends what the driving force is for the piece of work. It could be that the ideal UX way is for passwords to never expire so they can be used whenever people want, but the security team are not going to like that option for obvious reasons. As this question asks what the reason is for the expiry, that part is a Security issue more than it is a User Experience issue. – JonW Jul 10 '13 at 11:00
The way I see it, UX is about trade-offs. There is no “optimal” UX solution outside of the constraints of a project (including security constraints). A good answer would describe these trade-offs and their consequences for the design of the system, possibly suggest other ways to address the underlying (security) problem through interaction design. Generally speaking, I have the feeling that all the talk about “good UX” outside of any context and all the questions about this and that widget tend to isolate UX from what makes it challenging and interesting. – Gala Jul 10 '13 at 11:05

The temporary "password" should take the user to a page to allow the user to change their password, but not actually change the password to the temporary one in case someone other than the user requests the password change, it doesn't lock an unsuspecting user out.

The temporary one should expire, even if the site doesn't have "secure" data about the user. It is often possible to get a little information about a user and move on to another site the user uses, getting a little more information, etc. until the hacker has "elevated" enough to get through.

This is a security issue, but it is also a UX issue. When the user's personal life is negatively effected because of poor design from a single web site - this absolutely effect the user's experience in a drastic way.

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One potential reason is that this temporary password travelled through an unencrypted channel (email) and will possibly remain in a relatively insecure location (the mailbox).

Making it expire limits the risk associated with this but also impacts the interaction with the system as it provides an incentive to actually heed the advice to supply a new password instead of relying on finding back the email and the automatically generated password later on.

Another solution to the same problem is to invalidate the previous password and make the temporary password a one-time identification token/link leading to a “change password” page but that's obviously more intrusive and could occasionally backfire. Yet another solution on the other end of the security-convenience trade-off is to send back the original password but that means storing and transmitting it in unencrypted form, which is generally not recommended. Note that people often reuse their passwords so that revealing their password can entail a small risk of exposing your users to serious problems even if your application does not seem particularly critical.

Of course, the ability to request a temporary password by email or through a simple personal question also introduces new risks in itself. That's why financial transactions are usually protected through other measures like a two-factor identification or check-out process that forbid delivery to an unknown address without verifying the credit card again. This is arguably more important than making the password expire.

Finally, one last thing to consider is trust. If people are used to temporary passwords and other security measures, they might expect the same from you lest they consider your company less trustworthy that its competitors. You certainly want your design to give the impression that it's safe doing business with you.

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I think that the main reason behind it is security. The user should use temporary password to change the password/reset the forgotten password.

If in case the mail is not accessible then at that time the user may have to generate another request for temporary password.

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You should do this if your account contains important data which can be misused. Financial and Banking websites usually require high security.

Generally any Forgot Password functionality should have 2 factor authentication. You could ask a security question and then send an email to the registered email address.This password should also be a temporary one and make the user change his password as soon as he has logged in with it.

A temporary password which expires only assumes that the email address has not been compromised yet but could be after the expiry period.

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