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Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2015 21:52:39 +0200
From: Krisztián Pintér <>
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] Why protect against side channel attacks

Greg Zaverucha (at Wednesday, June 24, 2015, 9:12:16 PM):

> To summarize, hashing with a function that has side channels
> introduces a new attack vector, and can put passwords at risk even without a breach.

this is indeed an important point. but even more important that i
explained it more than a year ago on this very list, with very minimal

> Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2014 16:25:34 +0200
> on timing attacks
> scenario: we can run a task on the same computer, or otherwise can
> listen in on its memory usage patterns (power analysis, etc). but
> otherwise we have no access to either any memory or on-disk databases.
> we can acquire a memory access fingerprint, that is, some
> characteristics of the pattern in which memory is accessed (number of
> cache misses in a time window, access of certain memory locations or
> blocks, etc). this fingerprint is unique to the password/salt
> combination. therefore we can check a password/salt hypothesis by
> running the algorithm against it, and matching to the access
> fingerprint.
> ...
> in short, correlation between secret information and memory access
> patterns not only offers a shortcut, but in fact opens up a new attack
> vector that previously was not present.

to which (and my later attempts) the following answers were given:

Thomas Pornin:

> This may also be due (at least in part) to performance reasons.
> Data-dependent branching will behave poorly with regards to jump
> prediction within the CPU.

> To a large extent, password hashing works in a complete opposite
> direction

Hongjun Wu:

> POMELO is a conservative design so that even when the cache-timing
> attack is successful, POMELO can still perform as a strong PHS.

Jeremi Gosney:

> I've never heard that this was a no-no in the context of password
> hashing. On the contrary, data-dependent branching is something that has
> been considered highly desireable in password hashing

> Password hashing is not cryptography. Timing attacks are not a practical
> concern in password hashing, especially not with salted schemes.

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