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Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2013 09:54:54 -0800
From: "Dennis E. Hamilton" <>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Subject: RE: [PHC] Coding of the in[inlen] array for PHS( )


An afterthought.

The great value of providing a clean, binary interface for PHS is for the
security model.  One can assume cryptographically random passwords and salts
and also control other variables, especially in a production implementation
(to the extent that timing attacks and other factors are of concern,
depending on the use case).  That's the best-case security model.

One can then look at application profiles and use cases to determine their
impact on the security model.  Since plaintext passwords are generally not
indistinguishable from random and it is known what failure to keep the hash
secret makes possible, for example, one can consider the threat model and
exposure of given application scenarios.  But to have a foundation for this,
I think one wants a very clean, understood security model at the PHS

My intuition is that all of the issues are going to be in the application
profiles, their threat models, and how vulnerable those are to inept
implementation, insider failures, etc.

 - Dennis

-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis E. Hamilton [] 
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 22:03
Subject: RE: [PHC] Coding of the in[inlen] array for PHS( )

Thanks Marsh,

I would define PHS to work on arbitrary octet strings in the in[inlen]
array.  This is at the binary level.

Then I would treat the use of particular text encodings in an interoperable
use case, or application profile.  

There are also application profiles where pure binary is desired (e.g., as
in extending a weak use of a hash to one with much stronger protection of
the same password that creates the weak hash).

[I'm assuming there's a desire that PHS be usable underneath many use

 - Dennis

-----Original Message-----
From: Marsh Ray [] 
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 19:22
Cc: Dennis E. Hamilton 
Subject: RE: [PHC] Coding of the in[inlen] array for PHS( )

> From: Dennis E. Hamilton []
> I am going to risk over-stating the obvious just to make certain that I,
as a
> newcomer, am on the same page about what the tacit understanding is
> concerning what PHS( ) effectively operates on.

Thank you :-)

This is definitely something that needs to be addressed by the final stage
of the PHC. But it's probably not urgent to finalize it now.

We might look at the history of the RADIUS authentication protocol. It
handles username and password data for a variety of clients and servers.

RFC 2058 didn't define or
recommend an encoding for strings.
RFC 2865 defined distinct
'text' and 'string' types "Text contains UTF-8 encoded 10646 characters and
String contains 8-bit binary data." Presumably this change was made to
encourage interoperability, the IETF tends not to invoke ISO 10646 or
Unicode lightly.

How about this wording:

"The function must be well-defined for all sequences of octets supplied to
the password input. Length constraints should be clearly defined parameters
of the algorithm and should generate an error result if violated. Password
inputs with embedded NUL (0x00) byte values are allowed and are treated as
significant (even trailing NULs).

However, to promote interoperability callers are strongly encouraged to
supply character data in the form of a sequence of minimal-length UTF-8
encoded ISO 10646 characters (not including any NULs trailing or otherwise)
whenever practical. Note that this specification declines to recommend a
specific Unicode normalization form in the hope that implementers will do
the right thing.

Case-folding of password inputs is strongly discouraged, i.e., passwords
should always be treated case-sensitively."

- Marsh

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