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Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:51:15 +0200 (CEST)
From: Stefan.Lucks@...-weimar.de
To: discussions@...sword-hashing.net
Subject: Re: [PHC] Let's not degenerate when if the PRF is too narrow for
 desired output

On Wed, 17 Apr 2013, Solar Designer wrote:

> Here's a related desirable property of a good PHS: its overall
> computational cost should not depend strongly (e.g., linearly) on input
> length as well.

Strictly spoken, this is plain impossible. When the length of inputs goes 
to infinity, the computational cost can be more than linear in the input 
size, but never less than linear in the input size ... if the output may 
depend on all of the input, as would be for any good password-scrambler.

If the time for the main computation is sublinear, then beyond some input 
length the time for just reading the input dominates the running time.

Of course, this is just a theoretical problem. Who cares if the timings 
allow the adversary to distinguish between passwords who's length is a few 
characters and "passwords" who's length extends to more than a few hundred 
characters?

Nevertheless, it would be a bad policy to require a property that is 
theoretically impossible.

> 1. The cost settings would have to be chosen with consideration of the
> maximum input length supported on a given system, so they would likely
> end up being lower than what could be afforded for typical input length.
>
> 2. The input (password or passphrase) length would be leaked via timings.
> While such leaks are unavoidable e.g. with crypt(3)'s use of C strings, a
> strong dependency of PHS computation time on input length would make the
> leaks a whole lot worse.

Addressing 1.:

For all passwords of a certain length (either up to the given maximum 
length or up to, say, 1000 characters), the time to process them is within 
5% range.

Addressing 2.:

If the password is N characters, the timing to process the password shall 
not allow to figure out more about N than that it is within a range of 
length D, for a reasonable D (say, D>7 or so). I.e., the adversary can 
figure out if the password is, say, shorter than 16 characters, longer 
than 23 or in between, but not anything more.

> The requirements for a PHS are stronger than those for some uses of a 
> KDF.

A really cool password hash should be usable for key derivation, and vice 
versa.

If you really need to separate between the two, then the requirements for 
password hashing are neither stronger nor weaker than the requirements for 
key derivation, they are just different -- even if there is some overlap.

For one thing, the output of a KDF should really be pseudorandom, while 
some statistical bias in the output of a password hash might be tolerable.


So long

Stefan

------  I  love  the  taste  of  Cryptanalysis  in  the morning!  ------
     <http://www.uni-weimar.de/cms/medien/mediensicherheit/home.html>
--Stefan.Lucks (at) uni-weimar.de, Bauhaus-Universit├Ąt Weimar, Germany--

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