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Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2014 19:04:15 -0400
From: Bill Cox <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] Re: A review per day - Yescript

Hash: SHA1

On 08/28/2014 05:37 PM, Solar Designer wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 04:05:32PM -0400, Bill Cox wrote:
>> As promised, here's where I finally say all the things I don't
>> like about Yescrypt.
> Thank you!
>> Here's my list:
>> - - It's too complex.
> It's definitely more complex than I would have liked it to be.  But
> I have difficulty dropping anything from it to reduce complexity,
> and I have yet more flags to add, including to address your wishes 
> (cache-timing resistant initial phase, tunable pwxform rounds).
> First on my list to potentially drop is YESCRYPT_PARALLEL_SMIX
> (keep support only for scrypt-style thread-level parallelism), but
> it sounds like you wouldn't like me dropping that.  And Argon
> authors' analysis suggests that such theoretically 1:1 TMTO
> opportunities are in fact bad in practice (need to slow down attack
> by a factor greater than the reduction in memory, if at all
> possible), especially at very high p.

I really would prefer that you keep YESCRYPT_PARALLEL_SMIX, and
YESCRYPT_RW.  Reading an unpredictable prior location and mixing it
into the state is the best way to defend against Scrypt's current TMTO

>> - - No cache-timing resistant initial phase has not yet been
>> implemented.
> Yes.  Planned for final revision.

For my purposes, I could live without it.  TwoCats' first half uses
predictable addressing, and as much as I do worry a bit about timing
attacks for TrueCrypt-like applications, I also worry about someone
building an ASIC that tears through the first half too fast.  The
multiplication chains are probably the only thing that would give them
trouble, but those are optional in TwoCats.

>> - - OPENMP support is required for current version to run in
>> parallel
> Oh, that's a mere implementation detail.  To me, OpenMP-using code
> is cleaner and smaller than pthread-using code, but it's easy to
> switch it to using pthreads in a fork of the tree, or to include
> both versions, if you want to.  I just don't want to add the
> complexity of including both.
> Why do you find it a drawback?  OpenMP has been around for years,
> and it hides some of the complexity and removes room for some
> potential bugs.

It's not really a drawback now days.  I do worry that OpenMP is not
doing a good job starting and merging your threads though.  When I run
TwoCats in Ubuntu 14.04, it runs at almost the same exact speed every
time.  Yescript gives me more variation in runtime.  I worry OpenMP is
the culprit.

> Oh, here's where it can in fact be a drawback: if the app into
> which the code is to be linked is already using some other
> abstraction layer for threads.  But I can't possibly happen to
> match every possible abstraction layer at once.

Well, now that you point it out, this is an issue, too :-p

>> - - Like Samuel Neves code, understanding what's going on can be
>> tricky!
> In case of yescrypt, is it caused by complexity of what's in
> yescrypt or by the way the code is currently written, in your
> opinion?

Both.  See example below.

> If you have any suggestions on making yescrypt or/and its
> implementations simpler, I'd be happy to hear those!

Try and just think dumb :-)

>> - - For t == 0, most of hashing could be done serially, rather
>> than in parallel, though the results need to be loaded in
>> parallel for the final pass.
> Is it the "banana attack" you mention below?  I'll re-read it
> tomorrow.


>> The complexity of Yescrypt will make it difficult for other
>> authors to create their own compatible versions.  It also makes
>> cryptanalysis harder.  I certainly have a difficult time reading
>> it and convincing myself it is bug-free.
> Unfortunately, yes.
> As to cryptanalysis, though, it should be pretty easy to verify 
> yescrypt's entropy bypass paths for both password and salt, as well
> as separation of password and salt, from looking at the wrapper
> functions only.  It's analysis of susceptibility to TMTO, etc. that
> is complicated.

True enough.  I'll look forward to your reduced functionality of
Yescrypt as well.  It should be a lot easier to grasp.

>> However, I gave it a try.  I may have found a bug, but being
>> Solar Designer's code, I have to admit it is more likely an error
>> in my reading of his code.  The potential bug is on line 433 in 
>> yescrypt-ref.c.  For t == 0, with YESCRYPT_RW enabled and
>> parallelism
>>> 1, I think that randomly read/writing 1/9th of memory followed
>>> by
>> randomly reading 2/9ths of memory sounds like it would provide
>> enough TMTO defense.  Honestly, I'm not sure smix2 is needed at
>> all for good security when YESCRYPT_RW is set.
> I did the math, as well as simulations (see extra/sim-normat*),
> and optimal normalized area-time cost to attacker is achieved at
> yescrypt's current behavior for t=0, with its SMix2 intact and
> corresponding to 1/4th of total iteration count (which is 4/3*N).
> This is assuming no efficiency-improving TMTO exists (one that
> would reduce the area-time cost).  If such TMTO attack exists at
> t=0, then t=1 or higher would be optimal, meaning even more
> iterations in SMix2.
> In other words, the few iterations in SMix2 that are invoked at t=0
> are there primarily not because of TMTO concerns, but simply
> because they increase the normalized area-time even assuming no
> TMTO.  Even more iterations, beyond this optimal point, would be
> decreasing the normalized area-time, unless an efficiency-improving
> TMTO exists.
> Hence my choice of settings to use at t=0.  Nothing arbitrary
> there.

So, you divided the number of memory elements N by 3*p^2, where p is
the parallelism, to determine how many unpredictable writes to do, and
this happens to be the optimal solution to your time*cost maximization
under a TMTO attack...

This is why it's hard to read your code!

I spent a lot of time thinking, "Why did he do that?", when reading
your code.  I can usually see it pretty quickly, but I actually am far
more experienced at reading complex code than most people.  There's
simply nothing wrong with your coding style or methodology, so long as
the reader is a genius :-)

I don't expect you to change the code in any way... maybe put in a
comment about the N/(3*p^2) thing?  I actually have worked with a few
guys who see the code as self-documenting, almost regardless of the
complexity.  I've just been working with a guy who in theory is a
college student at Frankfurt University who is incredible.  He helped
us work out how to upgrade older TrueCrypt installs cleanly to a new
CipherShed install.  Getting it right involves understanding complex
inter-relationships between 100 different pieces of code.  He's been
putting in very helpful comments for the rest of us :-)

If indeed this Rocki Hack really is this good as a college student,
someone should get hold of him quick, and rope him into a software
security career somewhere.

> Assuming YESCRYPT_PARALLEL_SMIX is set for the below:

Yep.  I'm doing benchmarks at the moment with Yescrypt through the PHS
interface.  I just set the parallelism #define to 4, which is optimal
on my test machine.

>> However, it looks like Nloop_rw is set to N/(3*p^2).  It looks
>> like it only does N/(3*p) total random read/writes, followed by
>> N/3 - N/(3*p)) random reads.  Is it supposed to be this way?
>> This seems OK for p == 2 or p == 3, but what about p == 32?  Why
>> would I want fewer random writes as a total fraction of memory as
>> I increase parallelism?
> Everything you describe in here is on purpose.  The random writes
> exist for p>1 at all only to keep yescrypt's absolute TMTO
> resilience (against whatever fixed TMTO attack) for p>1 at p times
> higher total memory no worse than it is for p=1 at correspondingly
> less memory, with no surprising gap.  It would be rather nasty if
> e.g. going from 1 GB p=1 to 2 GB p=2 or even to 32 GB p=32 would
> potentially allow for an efficient attack in a smaller amount of
> memory than on the 1 GB p=1 hash.  This extra magic with division
> by p^2 removes that risk.  For 32 GB p=32, it feels irrelevant as
> it's unlikely you could find an efficient attack at < 1 GB on a 32
> GB hash, and as you point out this random writes portion becomes
> almost negligible, but for e.g. 2 GB p=2 the risk of an efficient <
> 1 GB attack could be for real.

Makes sense.

> I first briefly mentioned this detail in here (although I was
> confused by some other important things in that early posting on
> the subject): 
> "When ESCRYPT_RW is set, there's some additional magic here, which
> ensures there's no reduction in "absolute" TMTO resistance when
> going from p=1 to p>1 and increasing N proportionally."

In general I would prefer that the code documented any magic :-)

> This is definitely one of the design decisions that ideally I
> should have explained in the specification document.

And in the comments.

>> The complaint I have about not forcing parallel computation is 
>> basically a banana attack.  If an attacker can instantly flush
>> his memory to disk, and later instantly read it back, then he can
>> do a TMTO, running threads in series rather than in parallel,
>> because no data is exchanged between the threads.  They are all
>> independent.  In the last pass, all memory has to be loaded so
>> that the random read phase can complete in a reasonable time.
>> The problem with this attack is that the attacker needs the
>> bandwidth from memory to disk to be as high as from the CPU to
>> memory.  On my test machine, I'm able to get about 12GiB/s
>> bandwidth from the CPU to memory.  In theory, my Sata interface
>> is 6GiB/s.  I seriously doubt that having 2 Sata disks in my 
>> system would let me do 12GiB/s read/write to them.  However, if I
>> were determined to make this TMTO attack, I might be able to do
>> so with only a 2X increase in time*memory cost for high
>> parallelism values, but I still would need to load it all in
>> memory in the end.  That compares to Scrypt's *reduction* in
>> time*memory cost by 4X, so it's hard to say this is a real
>> concern.  It's more like me beating Solar Designer with a banana
>> :-)
> I'll re-read this tomorrow, but for now: I think SATA is 6 Gbps,
> not 6 GiB/s.  So you'll need ~10x more interfaces.

That makes my banana pretty limp.

>> I think Solar Designer errs on the side of over-defending
>> passwords at the expense of too much additional complexity.  I
>> think his mind deals with complexity like this more easily than
>> most of the rest of us, which leads him to make this mistake.  No
>> other entry has gone to such lengths to increase an attacker's
>> power bill slightly when possible. There are more modes and
>> tunables than any other entry, to help defend better in various
>> situations.  He has the VROM mode for authentication servers, and
>> small random-read-writes for Bcrypt-like security.  He has Scrypt
>> compatibility mode, and code to detect any non-Scrypt compatible
>> options, in which case he fixes the PBKDF2-HMAC input collisions.
>> I hate modes.  They confuse me :-)
> I don't think my mind is that special.  It's more like I find
> yescrypt's complexity not so complex for me for the simple reason
> that I spent a lot of time analyzing scrypt and its code, and then
> designing yescrypt, step by step and removing/replacing parts, so I
> have a good feeling of why every part is in there, what we'd miss
> without it, and how it interacts with the rest.
> As to having fewer modes, I am likely to create at least one
> cut-down implementation of yescrypt with partial functionality.  I
> will likely exclude support for p>1, YESCRYPT_PARALLEL_SMIX, and
> ROM from that one, keeping only what's relevant for a crypt(3) with
> no extra inputs. I might also exclude scrypt compatibility from it
> (without support for p>1, it wouldn't be full scrypt anyway).
> Alexander

I look forward to that cut down version.  Anyway, Yescrypt is an
awesome piece of work.  I hope the PHC judges have the sense to select
it as the Scrypt successor.  That would make my job recommending the
right password hash for CipherShed simple.  If the Scrypt successor is
chosen from Microsoft's picks... well, there's still Scrypt!  Not only
that, but the best Scrypt implementation happens to be... Yescrypt!

Version: GnuPG v1


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