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Date: Sat, 5 Apr 2014 12:58:48 -0400
From: Bill Cox <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] Mechanical tests (was: POMELO fails the dieharder tests)

I take back what I said about the Birthday test above.  At a minimum,
any PHS that fails the Birthday test is going to generate non-random
appearing data.  I think that generating cryptographically
pseudorandom outputs should be a goal of the PHS, though I agree it is
not critical.  However, not losing much entropy is a must.

Given enough entropy from salt (say the required default of 16 bytes),
any test that fails the dieharder test or any other test for
randomness clearly has lost too much entropy to be a good PHS.  Simply
running the dieharder tests with salt from /dev/urandom can help weed
those out.  I'd say /dev/random, but since dieharder is quite happy
with /dev/urandom results, it would be a bad thing to run a PHS on
/dev/urandom data and get results that don't pass the dieharder tests.

By the way, the compression test is already in dieharder.  Go ahead
and try to come up with some others, but I'd be surprised to see any
new randomness tests that fail on a PHC entry for valid reasons, yet
pass the dieharder tests, unless the algorithm is specifically
designed to detect the output of a specific PHS.  Honestly, I only do
Alexander's manual collision test to make him happy.  It's already in
the Birthday test.

One thing we can prove is that a PHS that attempts to be a secure
memory-hard algorithm is "strongly secure" in the sense that we've
hashed all the inputs to meet that definition, and have preserved
entropy all the way to the output.  Both yescript and TwoCats pass
this test, as well as several others, I think.  All you have to show
is your code works something like:

PRK = H(all inputs, including lengths)
X = whateverHashAlgorithm(PRK)
output H(PRK || X)

I would call anything like this a "strongly secure PHS".  I'm not
really thinking about the non-memory-hard PHS's which seem to take
radically different approaches.  Some of the memory-hard PHS's look
more like:

PRK = H(all inputs, including lengths)
X = whateverHashAlgorithm(PRK)
output H(X)

For example, I think Scrypt, Catena, and Gambit look more like this.
I'd have to double check to be sure.  These schemes require more proof
that entropy is not lost, but since they use familiar cryptographic
primitives for all hashing, they seem pretty safe to me.  The ones
that don't use any cryptographic primitives at all are the scary ones
to me.  Using the dieharder tests, we're already showing that some of
those are not very well put together, at least in their submitted


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