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Date: Sun, 23 Mar 2014 21:57:08 +0400
From: Solar Designer <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] pufferfish


On Sun, Mar 23, 2014 at 07:59:48AM -0700, Jeremi Gosney wrote:
> I've pushed code to a public repository for the candidate I will be
> submitting, pufferfish. This repository will be frantically updated over
> the coming week as I prepare my submission, but I wanted to get some
> initial feedback before the cutoff.

I definitely would have more comments on both the underlying idea (as I
had thoughts along similar lines too, and found much of what you
describe just not good enough) and the specific scheme and code, but I'm
afraid I won't have time for that before the submission deadline, unless
I decided right now that I won't be submitting escrypt.

So I'm afraid we'll need to discuss this after the submissions deadline,
even though I think my feedback could significantly influence your work.

Either that, or we need to extend the deadline by a few months more or
introduce an extra round of submissions. ;-(

I haven't looked at your code yet, but have you introduced two layers of
lookups - tiny yet frequent (bcrypt-like) vs. larger and infrequent
(scrypt-like)?  If not, your scheme won't scale beyond L1 cache size, so
will have only slight advantage over bcrypt (only due to modern CPUs'
L1 caches allowing for up to ~12 or ~16 KiB per thread until there's a
performance hit, vs. bcrypt's 4 KiB).  The way I'd try dealing with this
when enhancing bcrypt is by having bcrypt-like S-boxes randomly move
across a larger arena once in a while.

Well, you could accept that performance would drop when you no longer
fit in L1 cache, hoping that attackers would have a similar performance
hit anyway.  This may be true for attackers with CPUs and GPUs, but
perhaps not with ASICs.  Maybe that's OK, but this raises the question
of why deviate from bcrypt at all if it's not against ASICs.  Well,
maybe that's in case future/bigger GPUs are better at attacking bcrypt,
which is likely, but not at attacking your scheme.

And like I said in those tweets, I think the introduction of SHA-2 and
HMAC is unnecessary (you can process > 72 chars using the same "trick"
that BSDI crypt() did for > 8 chars with DES, and it did that well),
and it removes much of the advantage of this being a tweak of bcrypt.

Oh, and you also introduce ChaCha?  With that mix, what's the advantage
over scrypt?

I think a key advantage of building upon bcrypt would be to stay with no
external crypto primitives.  I understand, though, that as soon as you
revise Blowfish, you no longer have _any_ studied crypto primitive in
there, so that's probably what prompts you to introduce something extra.
Maybe stay with classic Blowfish, then, and enhance the scheme in other
ways (mentioned above).  Yes, you won't use 64-bit CPUs more optimally
and won't rely on more than 4 KiB of L1 cache (but you may rely on some
L2+ cache and RAM) then...  A nasty tradeoff.  Maybe you can introduce
tunable parallelism, though, so that once we finally have faster gather
loads, those could be used for defense (and we'd use more L1 cache in
that way).

Overall, with all of those concerns I think you can see why I chose not
to go in that direction.  Add to that possibly frustrating the OpenBSD
folks if we tried to build upon bcrypt too closely, and this becoming
less reasonable if we deviate from bcrypt very far and introduce more
crypto primitives.

That said, it's great that you're experimenting with this approach, at
least to provide another baseline to compare other PHC submissions
against.  Thank you, and good luck!


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