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Schneier: We Don't Need SHA-3 143

Trailrunner7 writes with this excerpt from Threatpost: "For the last five years, NIST, the government body charged with developing new standards for computer security, among other things, has been searching for a new hash function to replace the aging SHA-2 function. Five years is a long time, but this is the federal government and things move at their own pace in Washington, but NIST soon will be announcing the winner from the five finalists that were chosen last year. Despite the problems that have cropped up with some versions of SHA-2 in the past and the long wait for the new function, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of breathless anticipation for this announcement. So much so, in fact, that Bruce Schneier, a co-author of one of the finalists not only isn't hoping that his entry wins, he's hoping that none of them wins. ... It's not because Schneier doesn't think the finalists are worthy of winning. In fact, he says, they're all good and fast and perfectly capable. The problem is, he doesn't think that the world needs a new hash function standard at all. SHA-512, the stronger version of the SHA-2 function that's been in use for more than a decade, is still holding up fine, Schneier said, which was not what cryptographers anticipated would be the case when the SHA-3 competition was conceived. 'I expect SHA-2 to be still acceptable for the foreseeable future. That's the problem. It's not like AES. Everyone knew that DES was dead — and triple-DES was too slow and clunky — and we needed something new. So when AES appeared, people switched as soon as they could. This will be different,' Schneier said via email."
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Schneier: We Don't Need SHA-3

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  • Too slow? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @05:15AM (#41447475)

    As I understood, it has to be slow to be hard to break via dictionary attacks etc. ...

  • Useful replacement (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @05:15AM (#41447479)
    Faster computation of hash functions is very important, especially to low-power devices. In other words, even if the improvements in cryptographic strength are irrelevant I'd expect the new standard to be adopted quickly.
  • Re:Too slow? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gigaherz ( 2653757 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @05:24AM (#41447507)

    Disclaimer: I'm not a security expert so don't expect what I'm saying to be accurate.

    Dictionary attacks have nothing to do with breaking hashes. If you mean stuff like rainbow tables, that's specific to hashes used to store passwords, which doesn't even need anything > SHA-256, because passwords don't have that much entropy to begin with.

    What you need for security are essentially too properties: the entropy in the hash system (how random the values seem to be, in relation to the input), and the collision resistance (how hard is it to generate two inputs that result in the same hash, AND how hard it is to generate an input for a given hash number).

    Cryptographic Hashes are used for a lot other purposes, and many of them DO require to be fast, and have a very high collision resistance. The most notable may be generating signatures for cryptographic purposes (to verify a message was sent by the entity that claims to have sent it, generally).

  • by Certhas ( 2310124 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @06:11AM (#41447603)

    Is it really necessary to have a snide remark at supposed government inefficiency there? Can't we bury this ideological attacks that are not really supported by facts or data, add nothing to the point and are in fact grossly misleading?

    This is a hard mathematical problem. Ordinary research papers in mathematics often spend a year or more in peer review in order to verify their correctness. If you're building a key component of security infrastructure a couple of years of review is not at all unreasonable.

  • by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @06:52AM (#41447725) Homepage

    Yeah, that bit of snark really showed the author has no clue at all what goes into a process like this. Those years are there to give researchers time to really try and break all the candidates. You don't want to rush that part only to find out someone managed to break the winner the next year.

  • Re:Too slow? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:13AM (#41448059)
    The purpose of slow hashes and salts is not to make passwords crack proof but to force the attacker to spend an inordinate amount of time extracting each and every password. The salt prevents reverse hash lookups. The slow hash imposes a penalty on every lookup in a dictionary / brute force attack. It's about damage limitation and buying time to warn users about the break.

    Hashes like bcrypt are configurable too so the number of rounds is a parameter to the power of two so it can be made more secure / slower if necessary as time progresses. With 2^10 rounds it's approximately 8000x slower to make a hash than SHA1 which server side isn't a big deal but it is for someone running through a dictionary.

    It's so bad that attackers would probably only bother to try a subset of common passwords (e.g. top 1000 passwords) before moving onto the next one. Enforcing password quality during signup would probably block these from hitting too.

  • by dwheeler ( 321049 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @12:40PM (#41451169) Homepage Journal

    I disagree. You don't wait to build a fire escape until the building is on fire. Similarly, we need a good alternative hash algorithm now, not when disaster strikes.

    I believe that, in general, we should always have two widely-implemented crypto algorithms for any important purpose. That way, if one breaks, everyone can just switch their configuration to the other one. If you only have one algorithm... you have nothing to switch to. It can take a very long time to deploy things "everywhere", and it takes far longer to get agreement on what the alternatives should be. Doing it in a calm, careful way is far more likely to produce good results.

    The history of cryptography has not been kind, in the sense that many algorithms that were once considered secure have been found not to be. Always having 2 algorithms seem prudent, given that history. And yes, it's possible that a future break will break both common algorithms. But if the algorithms are intentionally chosen to use different approaches, that is much less likely.

    Today, symmetric key encryption is widely implemented in AES. But lots of people still implement other algorithms, such as 3DES. 3DES is really slow, but there's no known MAJOR break in it, so in a pinch people could switch to it. There are other encryption algorithms obviously; the important point is that all sending and receiving parties have to implement the same algorithms for a given message BEFORE they can be used.

    Similarly, we have known concerns about SHA-2, SHA-256, and SHA-512. Maybe there will never be a problem. So what? Build the fire escape NOW, thank you.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"