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Date: Sat, 30 Mar 2013 09:52:18 +0400
From: Solar Designer <solar@...nwall.com>
To: discussions@...sword-hashing.net
Subject: Re: [PHC] Suggestion: API should include a verifier function

On Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 06:36:57PM -0700, Tony Arcieri wrote:
> So upon further reflection, I really think the threat model of PHC is: the
> attacker has the password hash.

Yes, that's the primary threat model for password hashing schemes.
It's not the only one, though.  We're also going to consider whether a
proposed password hashing scheme leaks data via timings, etc.

> If you can solve that problem,

We can't fully solve the problem of offline attacks on password hashes,
we can only mitigate it by making attacks less efficient - and that's
the primary goal of PHC.

> the issue of timing attacks should be irrelevant

After the attacker has the hashes, yes.  However, despite of this being
the primary threat model we're considering under PHC, we also need to
consider properties of the password hashing schemes that are relevant
before the hashes are leaked/stolen.  This includes possible timing leaks.

> (I think this was e.g. Solar Designer's point)

No, my point was that timing attacks on direct hash comparison are
beyond scope of PHC at least until we get close to publishing a
portfolio of password hashing schemes for actual use (some time in
2015?), and at that point we may include shared (rather than per PHC
submission) code to do such comparison well (if we choose to).

During our review of different password hashing schemes, it'd be a
distraction to consider how each scheme's authors would implement hash
comparison and what issues would be present there (e.g., "==" vs. "^").
This can well be shared code for maybe 90% of the submissions, except
for some exotic ones where verification amounts to more than direct
comparison.  For those exotic schemes, if we get any proposed under PHC,
I agree that we need a verifier API early on, and we need to analyze
such verifiers before our selection of finalists.

Like I said before, timing attacks on password hashing schemes
themselves (not their verifiers) are nevertheless within scope of PHC
(for all schemes, including those that would only need direct hash
comparison rather than a more advanced verifier).  Thus, we're going to
consider this sort of issues (e.g., "==" vs. "^") when reviewing PHC
submissions.  It's just that direct hash comparison code should not be
part of a PHC submission.

> I still think a verifier API is probably a good idea, regardless? If
> nothing else, I think a separate verifier API is a good cryptographer <=>
> end user interface ;)

Sure.  It's just beyond scope of early stages of PHC, except for
potential exotic submissions.

Alexander

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