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Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2014 23:16:21 +0400
From: Solar Designer <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] Tradeoff cryptanalysis of password hashing schemes


Thank you for the helpful answers!

On Sat, Aug 23, 2014 at 01:31:34AM +0400, Dmitry Khovratovich wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 6:31 PM, Solar Designer <> wrote:
> > You appear to be focusing on relative slowdown at fractions of the full
> > memory usage, as well as on finding optimal tradeoff points in terms of
> > energy consumption per password tested.  While these results are highly
> > desirable to have, maybe even more important is cost per password tested
> > (e.g. also in terms of energy consumption) for the different PHC
> > candidates being compared when they're tuned for the same defensive
> > request rate capacity (on commodity server hardware)?  Indeed, you'd
> > need to estimate such costs at the candidates' respective optimal
> > tradeoff points.
> I somewhat agree. We would definitely make this next step if we had a
> reference platform where all candidates have been benchmarked. Then yes, we
> could set a bound of say 0.5 sec and choose the maximum memory parameter
> that allows to compute the hash securely within this time. Although I am
> not sure if all candidates support this way of choosing the memory
> parameter.
> On the other hand, in the cryptographic competitions the security analysis
> is not usually coupled with performance. If a designer suggests 40 rounds,
> claim it secure, and afterwards a 39-round version gets broken, then the
> scheme is dead even if it is so fast that the number of rounds can be
> doubled with no problem. The reason is that it is designer's job to choose
> secure-and-fast set of parameters, not of cryptanalyst. The same here: if a
> function is claimed to be memory-hard, and it is not (i.e. reducing the
> memory does not increase the cost), then it has problems no matter how fast
> it is.

(I think per Colin's definition of sequential memory-hard function it
is OK if "reducing the memory does not increase the cost", as long as
the product of space and time does not decrease by more than a constant
factor.  You appear to be using a stricter definition/requirement here.
We might need a different name for tradeoff-resistant functions like
that, or always mention that property separately.)

I think PHC is quite different from usual cryptographic competitions in
that providing excessive (which probably means any at all) safety
margins e.g. against tradeoff attacks actually makes PHC candidates less
secure, not merely less attractive in other (non-security) ways (as it
would be the case with ciphers and regular crypto hashes).  To ensure
e.g. yescrypt isn't broken in the sense you mention, I'd need to provide
some safety margin in my recommended value for t, or to define yescrypt
such that t=0 would correspond to a higher running time (e.g., to what
is now requested with t=1 or higher).  However, I think doing so would
be counter-productive for actual goals of PHC, because there's a
security tradeoff here, not just a security vs. something else tradeoff.
The value of t that is optimal for security should be barely adequate to
withstand tradeoff attacks, with no safety margin.  As a result, I'm
afraid we should go the other way around: from smaller t to higher if we
have to as shown by attacks, and we should not be too surprised to find
such attacks, nor should we throw babies out with the water merely
because the initial proposed settings didn't have a safety margin and
proved somewhat too weak against some attacks.  They shouldn't have had
that safety margin, or the scheme would have been suboptimal
security-wise in another way!  For example, I actually criticized Lyra
and Lyra2 papers for recommending T higher than 1, which I feel would
make these use less memory than they optimally would.

Of course, in the above paragraph I am using "safety margin" only in
context of non-fatal attacks like tradeoffs, rather than cryptographic
attacks that would apply to regular crypto hashes.  We can easily have,
and we must have, plenty of safety margin against the latter.

I actually expect that yescrypt t=0 might be less resistant to TMTO than
Lyra2 T=1, but I think this might be optimal anyway, so until shown
otherwise I'd like to continue to give t=0 a try.  This being an
externally supplied parameter, it can be updated to t=1 or higher (for
newly hashed passwords) should we determine that to be optimal at a
later time.  There are other recommended parameter values that may also
need to be revised later anyway (for future defensive hardware).


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