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RE: ADS Password Storage Protection
From: "Roger A. Grimes" <roger () banneretcs com>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006 09:08:54 -0400

Here is my statement: That password length is a better defender of passwords than complexity, character for character, 
and that length should at least be given equal treatment when creating strong passwords. 

Instead, most applications and web sites asking for a strong password will accept significantly shorter and weaker 
passwords than my 20-character password, but not accept my alpha-only 20-character password. What would I like to see 
as the outcome:

1. More web sites and applications that accept long passwords as acceptable, without requiring 3 out of 4 character set 
complexity.
2. Microsoft increase the maximum value of the min. password length, which is now at 14.
3. People to start to talk about length as a natural factor of complexity, and give it its due consideration.

Instead, people and web sites are requiring shorter, complex passwords, which are sure to fall before a longer password.

-----Original Message-----
From: Christian.Assfalg () bc boehringer-ingelheim com [mailto:Christian.Assfalg () bc boehringer-ingelheim com] 
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 2:25 AM
To: Roger A. Grimes; security-basics () securityfocus com
Subject: AW: ADS Password Storage Protection

What you say is true, length increases the maximum number of possible passwords far more than a greater number of base 
characters. That is statistical mathematics. However, it assumes that the characters are not dependant on the other 
characters, which is not always the case. That's why dictionary attacks work so fine. You can substitute a number of 
characters (say 4) with all possible 4-character-long words. That reduces your complexity quite a bit. A passphrase of 
8 words with 5 characters each does not translate to 24^40 possibilities, but rather to 
(whatever-the-number-of-5-character-words-in-english-is)^8. In a dictionary attack, you can use this to significantly 
reduce the number of tries you have to try.

That's why a lot of people don't think that passphrases are as good as passwords that have more random-character digits.

One point is shurely that the current cracking tools (this was mentioned before) concentrate on shorter, randomized 
passwords, instead of longer passphrases. This will eventually change, I guess.

Still, I think that you can make a cracker's work much more difficult if you use a long Sentence as password, adding a 
special character here and there. At least you can give quite some challenge to those who design the 
dictionary-creating algorithms. ;-)

However, all this discussion is based on the assumption that a cracker actually HAS the hash, and actually needs the 
clear-text password. As mentioned several times, you can aparently perfectly authenticate with the hash only by using a 
modified smb client. So why cracking the password at all?

I too think that you can enhance security much more by restricting access to these hashes. No hash, no way to crack the 
password somewhere else where you can't audit the failures and lock the account.



-----Urspr√ľngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Roger A. Grimes [mailto:roger () banneretcs com]
Gesendet: Dienstag, 18. Juli 2006 23:42
An: Eoin Miller
Cc: security-basics () securityfocus com
Betreff: RE: ADS Password Storage Protection


Here's my conjecture.

A 10 character password with 26 characters, 26^10 =146,813,779,479,510
possible passwords.

If my password is 9 characters long, I have to add another 12 characters
of complexity before I pass the increase of strength from lengthening my
password from 9 characters to 10.

When faced with whether to add more complexity or length to increase
password strength, length counts more than complexity, per the math,
character for character.

If you add the fact that even with increased complexity requirements,
80% of your users will use the same 32 characters anyway, increasing
complexity doesn't mean the passwords really get more complex and harder
to break. 

In an extreme example to further support my case, suppose the IT
department required four different character sets to be used in a
password with a min. length of 4. With most normal existing password
complexity requirement character sets I could meet the requirements with
a password of Pa5 ()    This password would be broken relatively quickly.
If I require a min. length of 5 and three character sets (ex. Pass5),
the workload required would be more than with the latter than the
former.

-----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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