Bcrypt, a Popular Password Hashing Algorithm, Starts Its Long Goodbye

When data is breached from an infrequent threat to a persistent fact of life in the early 2010s, a question that will arise again and again as victim organizations, cybersecurity researchers, agencies Law enforcement and ordinary people assess the consequences of each incident: Which one password hashing algorithm is the target used to protect the user’s password?

If the answer is a faulty encryption function like SHA-1—not to mention a nightmare of passwords stored in clear text with no encryption obfuscation—then the victim will there’s more to worry about because it means it’s easier for someone to steal data to crack the password, access the user’s account directly, and try those passwords elsewhere to see if people reuse them or not. However, if the answer is an algorithm called bcrypt, there is at least one less thing to worry about.

Bcrypt turns 25 this year, and Niels Provos, one of its inventors, says that looking back, the algorithm has always had good energy, thanks to open source availability and the technical properties that drove it. its lifespan. Provos spoke to WIRED about a algorithm review which he published this week on Usenix ;login:. However, like so many other digital tools, there are now more powerful and secure alternatives to bcrypt, including the hashing algorithms known as scrypt and Argon2. Provos himself says that the quarter-century milestone is a lot for bcrypt and he expects it to fall out of popularity before celebrating another big birthday.

A version of bcrypt was first shipped with the open source operating system OpenBSD 2.1 in June 1997. At that time, the United States still imposed strict measures. export limit about password. But Provos, who grew up in Germany, worked on developing it while he still lives and studies there.

“One thing I find very surprising is how popular it has become,” he said. “I think it’s partly because it’s actually solving a real problem, but also because it’s open source and unencumbered by any export restrictions. And then everyone ended up implementing their own in all these other languages. So today, if you are faced with wanting to do password hashing, bcrypt is available in every language you can use. But another thing that I find interesting is that it is still relevant after 25 years. That is crazy.”

Provos developed bcrypt with David Mazieres, a professor of systems security at Stanford University who was studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he and Provos collaborated on bcrypt. The two met through the open source community and are working on OpenBSD.

Hashed passwords are fed into an algorithm to be cryptographically converted from a readable to a cryptic scramble. These algorithms are “one-way functions” that are easy to run but very difficult to decrypt or “crack,” even by the creator of the hash. In the case of login security, the idea is that you choose a password, the platform you are using hashes that password and then when you log into your account in the future, the system pulls the password you type, hash it, then compare the result with the password hash in the file for your account. If the hashes match, the login will succeed. This way the service only collects the hashes for comparison, not the password.


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