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Date: Fri, 17 Jul 2015 06:56:17 -0500 (CDT)
From: Steve Thomas <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] winner selection (Makwa)

This is super embarrassing I can't find this email on the list, but I do have
this draft from April. Just checked the gmane archive and it's not in there
either... Oops.

I remember why I never sent this. When I finished my analysis on delegation
another two algorithms for delegation were announced. So I wanted to read those
before I sent this, but I forgot I never sent this. Wow that PDF wasn't that
hard to read. Back's scheme prevents this attack at a cost of 14 to 20 times
more work. The optimized back's scheme is susceptible to this attack but it's
easier to test for. I guess you can ignore "the only useful in these two cases"
and requirements now that delegation isn't broken.

> On April 13, 2015 at 10:11 AM Solar Designer <> wrote:
> Makwa - likely select as a winner, but may need more pairs of eyes
> first, who would confirm they have actually reviewed Makwa. I think
> Steve did? Anyone else?

I dislike it because the author is unwilling to except that server shortcut and
escrow are very bad properties and pre and post hashing are required. If we
can't prevent him from saying it's good and it's OK to use then like I said
before "Makwa is broken by design".

Makwa's server shortcut (knowledge of P and Q) vs secret key:
.                 | Makwa               | Secret key
Secret not leaked | Takes t_cost time   | Can't do anything
Secret leaked     | Takes constant time | Takes t_cost time

> I didn't review it, and I think we have panel
> members who are more qualified to review it. Makwa is a likely winner
> because it provides a unique feature with specific use cases for it,
> it looks good at first glance (but indeed that's not a proper review),
> and it comes from a particularly careful submitter.

Delegation is the only useful part, but it is only useful in two specific cases
(I'm pretty sure all other cases Makwa is unsafe):
* An encryption key stretching service for low power clients (key is verified by
the client [ie it opens/decrypts the volume/file/data])
* PAKE for low power clients

The only safe way is to have the client generate the public/private key pair and
the α's and their inverses. Then sign the α's and destroy the private key. Then
they need to wait for the server to generate the β's for the (α,β) pairs (the
work of 300 key stretches) before delegation can be used. The (α,β) pairs,
public key, and signature of α's can be safely downloaded from the server if the
client knows their public key, a hash of it, the α's, or a hash of the α's. Note
compromising these stored values is beyond the scope of this.

Attacking delegation:
The server can craft α's that make delegation work but reveal a simple hash of
the password (h(pw, salt) ** 2 mod P*Q). This is done by giving pairs
(α0**i,β0**i) for i = 1 to 300. This is easy to detect but you could send
(α0*α1**i,β0*β1**i) for i = 1 to 300. There are several ways to mask these
values so it's hard to detect. The best general way to detect this is with
birthday attack, but if N is 100,000,000 then the client would need to do 11,774
tests just to get a 50% chance of detection. Personally I'd only use it if it's
less than a 1 in 2**64 chance. This amount of work probably negates the savings
of delegation. The good news is if you don't know if the public key is correct
then you just do the key stretching yourself the first time. Then you can verify
the signature of the α's.

Anyways it comes down to the sever getting a few thousand or million (N = 45,150
= (300+1)/2*300 and N < 13,545,000 = (300+1)/2*300*300 from above) possible
hashes that it can guess passwords for and if there is a match in any of those
then you got the password.

I'm not sure if this attack is known because I'm too lazy to read the paper and
I have a lot of emails from this list I haven't exactly gotten around to

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