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RE: ADS Password Storage Protection
From: "Roger A. Grimes" <roger () banneretcs com>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2006 20:44:55 -0400

But the point is...you can't guarantee complexity...beyond 32 most
commonly used characters. Real complexity doesn't exist. You can't
enforce true complexity unless you auto-generate random passwords. I
crack 8-character complex passwords every day without a problem.  

Even if you give users 94 different characters to choose between, 80%
will choose the same 32 characters. 

32^8 isn't nearly as good as 26^10. Just do the math. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Eoin Miller [mailto:eoin.miller () trojanedbinaries com] 
Sent: Tuesday, July 18, 2006 4:55 PM
To: Roger A. Grimes
Cc: security-basics () securityfocus com
Subject: Re: ADS Password Storage Protection

Roger A. Grimes wrote:
Length is always more important than complexity because password 
keyspace is expressed as Y^X, where Y is the number of possible 
characters and X is the password length. Thus, any similar increase in

X has significantly more impact than to Y.

  
Roger,

That relies upon the assumption of all attackers performing attacks that
attempt all possible characters all the time. In most attempts to break
passwords, the attacker will remove the uncommonly used characters from
being attempted. Since users try and follow the bare minimum
requirements, not adding complexity requirements can have a detrimental
effect. Consider the following hypothetical situation:

An internal employee has sniffed hashes from a network (we will assume
there are no shortcuts/weaknesses in the algorithm). The internal
company policy only requires 8 character length passwords and nothing
more. Which will be broken first by the attacker who is only trying to
crack a hash with lowercase letters [a-z]?

A hash generated from a 10 character password  that was created with
only lowercase [a-z].

or

A hash generated from a 8 character password that was created with
lowercase [a-z], uppercase [A-Z], numerical [0-9].

The likely combinations to guess are not only derived from the length of
the password but also from the minimum requirements instituted by the
password policy. Having password complexity requirements forces
attackers into using more possible combinations. I will not argue that
length or complexity is more important than the other because situations
can arise that expose the weakness of either. Both are required (and
complement each other) when instituting a sound password policy.

--Eoin

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This list is sponsored by: Norwich University

EARN A MASTER OF SCIENCE IN INFORMATION ASSURANCE - ONLINE
The NSA has designated Norwich University a center of Academic Excellence
in Information Security. Our program offers unparalleled Infosec management
education and the case study affords you unmatched consulting experience.
Using interactive e-Learning technology, you can earn this esteemed degree,
without disrupting your career or home life.

http://www.msia.norwich.edu/secfocus
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