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Date: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 11:22:59 -0400
From: Bill Cox <>
Subject: Best use of ROM in password hashing

Using large ROMs for authentication servers is brilliant.  It is pretty
hard to steal a TiB or more without being noticed, and if an attacker does
not have a copy of the ROM, he's stopped cold.

How should ROM data best be combined with password hashing?  This is
probably something Alexander is a couple of years ahead of me on, but I'm
having some fun thinking about this after doing some more EARWORM

The problem with large ROMs is that an attacker can split them into many
small ROMs.  If the data routing problem this creates is cheap enough in
time and cost, this can be a win for an attacker.  Because of this, I
prefer bandwidth runtime hardening with RAM, where we fill the RAM and read
from it pseudo-randomly, based on the password.

Still, the benefits of a large ROM are undeniable.  What if we wrapped a
memory-hard PHS with something like:

1) Start reading random location on N TiB hard-disk based on PRK =
H(passwordLen || password || saltLen || salt)?
2) In parallel, do some bandwidth limited memory-hard hashing to produce
PRK2 = MemoryHash(PRK)
3) return H(PRK2 || ROM[PRK % ROMLEN])

This still requires that an attacker have the ROM, and allows us to use
cheap hard-disks for storage of the ROM data.  Perhaps an attacker could
buy a big SSD and squash the access time, and share the SSD among many
guessing cores, but who cares?  The algorithm is still memory bandwidth
hardened, which seems stronger than ROM bandwidth hardening.

How would that compare against a PHS that intermixes hashing ROM data and
RAM data?


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