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Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 10:16:14 -0500
From: Bill Cox <>
Subject: Overwriting early hashing memory

Here's a significant advantage catena has over Scrypt that I only
thought of this morning:

Catena overwrites all of it's memory 3 times, while Scrypt never does.
 Even if memory leaks to an attacker, there's a good chance it will
not be the first row memory, meaning an attacker will still have to
spend considerable time before he can abort a password guess.

I feel that memory leaks are the most significant attack we should
worry about in a memory-hard KDF.  It's a bigger threat than
cache-timing attacks, IMO.  Catena does a better job defending against
them.  Can we do better?

If every time we finished writing 3X more memory than in the previous
pass, we could memmove the last 2/3rds over the first 1/3rd, erasing
the memory filled in the first 1/3rd runtime so far.  It would mean we
take 50% longer to fill the same memory, which is really bad, but we
can choose 5X to overwrite the first 1/5th, or 9X to overwrite the
first 1/8th.

This is a super-simple upgrade to my algorithm, and I think I'm going
to do this.  I just don't know how much overwriting initial memory is
worth.  Is it worth running 50% longer, or only 3% longer?


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