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Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:42:47 +0100
From: Thomas Pornin <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] "Why I Don't Recommend Scrypt"

On Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 12:11:05PM +0400, Solar Designer wrote:
> Thank you for your opinion.  Does this imply that you'd like the PHC to
> introduce a new scheme that would use CPU only (not RAM)?

Actually, I expect PHC to ultimately provide a portfolio of "deemed
good" schemes, somewhat like eSTREAM (and unlike AES or SHA-3). In
particular, there are extra features that any specific algorithm may or
may not provide, e.g. the ability to increase the work load (iteration
count) without having access to the source password, or a "fast path"
allowing much faster computation of a given hash if a specific secret
key is known. Or even more advanced features such as the ability to
delegate computation to an external untrusted system. Some candidates
may appear to be extremely good in the CPU+RAM tunable usage area while
lacking some of these extra features, so a portfolio will probably be a
more appropriate result.

It also implies that there is room for improvements for CPU-only (or
CPU-and-small-RAM-only) schemes. E.g. with bcrypt you cannot increase
the iteration count in an "offline" way (you have to start again from
the source password), there is no "fast path", the output is 192 bits
only, the input password length is limited (nominally 56 bytes, in
practice more often 55 or 51 characters, depending on the implementation
library),... PBKDF2 avoids some of these issues (e.g. it does not limit
input or output length) while adding a few extra ones (PBKDF2+SHA-256 is
GPU friendly; computing time is proportional to the output length;...).

Now it is very fine that some PHC candidates will use RAM and be tunable
in that respect. This is a research area that is in need of deep
exploration, and there are contexts where gobbling up RAM by the
gigabyte is the right thing to do for password hashing (e.g. when
deriving the symmetric key for disk encryption).

I don't think that there will be ONE winner. I don't thinkg that there
should be one and only one winner (unless the winner is my scheme, in
which case I am all for it, of course).

	--Thomas Pornin

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