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Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2015 12:42:41 +0100
From: Peter Maxwell <>
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] Why protect against side channel attacks

On 25 June 2015 at 12:27, Ben Harris <> wrote:

> On 25 Jun 2015 7:19 pm, "Peter Maxwell" <> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > On 25 June 2015 at 07:25, Solar Designer <> wrote:
> >>
> >> On Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 12:35:42AM +0100, Peter Maxwell wrote:
> >> > Lets assume there is
> >> > i bits of global secret data, s, and j bits of per-password secret
> data, h,
> >> > say.  The question then becomes: how much of s and h you can
> determine in
> >> > observing the side-channel for a single PDF calculation
> >>
> >> With proper design, where the secrets are passed through a fast
> >> cryptographic hash first (that is not itself susceptible to side-channel
> >> leaks), the answer to your question above is:
> >>
> >> Essentially none, as long as i and j are large enough (e.g. 128 bits
> >> each) and s and h are cryptographically random.
> >>
> >> In fact, to fully defeat the attack, it is sufficient to have s or h;
> >> it is not necessary to have both.  (In practice, it may be helpful to
> >> have both for other reasons.)
> >
> >
> > Not sure if we're talking at cross purposes here, or that having had a
> night's sleep I'm a bit more awake, but I think the algorithm would still
> be in trouble.
> >
> > If you pre-hash with constant time, say, global secret s and
> per-password data, h, to create, q, say then the access pattern will be a
> function of both s and h.  Remember that s is constant and h is picked from
> a space of, around, 2^40 (or some reasonable reflection of password
> strength.
> h in this example was the per user salt, assumed to be ~128bit. So even
> knowing q, you would not be able to brute force the password without h. A
> successful attack would require both a database leak (to get the salt) and
> a side channel attack (to remove the password stretching).

Ah, yes, my variable naming is again completely mince, should have been
h=hash(salt+password) or similar.

You get the idea though: the salt must be secret to avoid an attacker being
able to exploit the low dimension of the password space.  Are we assuming
the salt as secret?

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