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Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2014 20:01:37 +0400
From: Solar Designer <>
Cc: CipherShed Developers List <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] What TrueCrypt (probably) wants from the PHC


Thank you for posting this!

On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 05:11:45PM -0400, Bill Cox wrote:
> - - There needs to be a C API for auto-picking any complex parameters
> Using machine specific parameters is dangerous for most applications,
> but less so for CipherShed, because users are not supposed to make
> copies of volumes in the first place. You create them on one machine,
> and that's where they live... forever. The correct way to transfer a
> TrueCrypt volume to a new machine is to create a new volume on the
> destination machine, and then copy the files over. The case where
> CipherShed remembers various auto-generated parameters is new, and
> will be controversial. We may want to take the Audit's recommendation
> and encode one or more new parameters in the clear in the volume
> header. I am looking forward to debating this issue with the
> CipherShed developers. However, even if we do offer clear-text
> parameters in volume headers, many of our users will require volume
> headers where we don't. The scenerio where our users get killed if
> they are discovered to even have a TrueCrypt volume is a case we are
> concerned about.
> TrueCrypt volumes are currently essentially indistinguishable from
> true random data (with some unfortunate caveats mentioned in the
> audit). Because TrueCrypt has to open volumes with no idea what the
> encryption parameters might be, TrueCrypt currently tries every
> combination of supported encryption and password hash to see if any
> work. That's OK, because it only takes a few milliseconds to do them
> all. However, with multiple memory-hard options, guessing the correct
> one could take too long. In this case, I think Catena's "garlic" could
> work for us. We would have TrueCrypt first try all the old
> combinations and when they fail, we would guess a low garlic level
> appropriate for a mobile phone, and then increase the garlic until we
> either would use more memory than the machine has or run for too long.
> If the password is correct, this should only take about twice as long
> to discover the correct garlic level.

This sounds unnecessarily wasteful.  You could as well actually use
the too-small-garlic hash values as input to the higher-garlic hash,
just like Catena itself does internally.

In fact, you can extend this approach to parameters other than memory
cost.  You can also keep increasing the instruction, SIMD, and thread
parallelism along with each(?) higher memory cost setting you test.
(And this does not mean actually running more threads, etc. than your
hardware supports - indeed, you're not forced to actually make use of
the parallelism as such on every hash computation.  You'll just use your
hardware optimally.)

For example, currently you can use:

128 MiB, 128-bit, 1 thread
1 GiB, 512-bit, 4 threads
4 GiB, 512-bit, 8 threads
16 GiB, 512-bit, 16 threads

with each stage's result input to the next stage, until you either hit
the right password or hit a configured memory limit.

If the KDF has configurable cache-timing attack resistance, you can keep
it enabled for the first invocation (or two) and disable it for the rest
(so you get a hybrid scheme as a result, except on the smallest systems).

> Another problem is we face because of our no-visible-parameters rule
> is that we can't support a lot of memory-hard hash functions. Therefore:
> - - Please choose *one* high-memory usage successor to Scrypt

That's flawed logic.  PHC choosing multiple winners that are suitable
for your use doesn't mean you actually have to support multiple schemes.
You can choose just one, irrespective of PHC panel's decision.

There are other good reasons for PHC not to inflate the number of
winners.  Your reason is just not among those, in my opinion.


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