April 13, 2014

Hash0 Security Audit

This is the result of a 5-hour security audit of Hash0, which is a tool for turning a master password into unique passwords for websites based on the domain name (like pwdhash). Thanks to Hash0's author Danny Su for funding this audit.

                        Security Audit of Hash0
                             Taylor Hornby
                            April 13,  2014

1. Introduction

   This report is the result of a 5-hour audit of Hash0 [1]. Hash0 is
   a tool for generating different passwords for websites based on
   a master password, similar to pwdhash [2] and hashpass [3].

   The audit scope and threat model are discussed in sections 1.2 and
   1.3 respectively. Section 2 gives an overview of Hash0's
   cryptography. Section 3 presents security issues found during the
   audit. Section 4 recommends improvements. Section 5 lists future
   work, and Section 6 concludes.

1.2 Audit Scope

   This audit focused on the implementation and design of Hash0's
   cryptography, and did not explicitly check for other kinds of

   While some light review of the supporting libraries was performed,
   the audit focused on code unique to Hash0 and did not include
   significant time reviewing the PasswordMaker, SJCL, or CryptoJS

   The SHA1 of the commit that was reviewed is:


1.3 Threat Model

   There are three types of entities involved in every use of Hash0:

        1. The User

            The User is the person using the Hash0 software. The User
            knows the master password and uses Hash0 to generate
            site-specific passwords from the one master password.

        2. The Storage Provider

            The Storage Provider is responsible for storing metadata
            like the salts and synchronization settings. We assume this
            entity is controlled by the adversary.

        3. The Website

            This is the website the user is using Hash0 to generate
            a password for. The website provides a standard username and
            password login interface and is not necessarily aware that
            Hash0 is being used. We assume this entity is controlled by
            the adversary.

   The following list summarizes some kinds of attacks that would be
   considered security flaws in Hash0.

        - Attacks that leak useful information about the Master Password
          to any entity other than the User, even when the attacker can
          see many generated passwords.

        - Attacks that leak passwords for one Website to any entity
          other than the User or the intended Website.

        - Attacks that cause weak passwords to be generated.

        - Attacks that speed up the recovery of the master key from
          derived data (ciphertext, generated passwords, etc).

2. Cryptography Design

   Given a master password, Hash0 runs it through 100 iterations PBKDF2
   with the salt "saltysnacks" to produce 512 bits of output*. That
   output is used as a key to HMAC the string "zerobin1337". The HMAC
   output is converted to a 30-character password, called the
   "encryption password", with a base conversion algorithm. This
   password is used for encrypting and decrypting data stored by the
   Storage Provider.

   The data stored by the Storage Provider is encrypted and decrypted
   using SJCL's encrypt() and decrypt() convenience functions, with the
   default parameters. The default is to derive an 128-bit key from the
   password with PBKDF2 then encrypt the data with AES in CCM mode,
   which is an authenticated encryption mode.

   To generate a password for a website, Hash0 runs the master password
   through 100 iterations of PBKDF2 with a random salt** to generate 512
   bits of output.  That output is used as a key to HMAC the string
   which is the domain name of the website prefixed to the password
   number (used to generate multiple passwords for the same website).
   The HMAC output is converted to a password of configurable length
   using a base conversion algorithm.

   * - The PBKDF2 output is encoded in hex and is used as the HMAC key
       without being decoded.

   **- The salt may be the empty string if the Storage Provider URL is
       not configured. See Issue 3.7. The salt is encoded (and used) as
       a 128-bit hex string.

3. Issues

   This section lists the issues discovered during the audit. We do not
   attempt to assign criticality or exploitability ratings to the

3.1 Encryption is Stored in LocalStorage

   The encryption key, which is used to encrypt and decrypt the data
   stored by the Storage Provider, is stored in localStorage. Unless the
   browser is in private browsing mode, it will be written to disk. It
   should be kept it memory.

   The Hash0 author was aware of this issue before this audit began.

3.2 Salts Generated with Math.random()

   The salts are generated with CryptoJS's WordArray.random(), which
   uses Math.random(). This is insecure. Salts must be generated with
   a CSPRNG.

   Use window.crypto.getRandomValues() or the SJCL cryptographic random
   number generator.

   The Hash0 author was aware of this issue before this audit began.

3.3 Low PBKDF2 Iteration Count

   Only 100 iterations of PBKDF2 are used when deriving the encryption
   password or a website password. This low value was explicitly chosen
   for performance reasons. According to these benchmarks...


   ...most platforms can support many more iterations. The iteration
   count should be increased to 1000.

   This is probably because 1000 iterations of PBKDF2 actually are being
   used, but not in the right place. SJCL's encrypt() and decrypt()
   functions compute 1000 iterations of PBKDF2 to turn the passed string
   into a key. To avoid this, pass a key (bitArray), not a string, to
   encrypt() and decrypt().

   The Hash0 author was aware of this issue before the audit began.

3.4 Corrupted Ciphertext Exception is Not Caught

   The SJCL decrypt() function will throw sjcl.exception.corrupt if the
   key is wrong or if an attacker has tampered with the ciphertext.
   Hash0 does not handle this case, and simply crashes without giving
   the user any explanation.

   This exception should be caught, and the user should be told that
   either the password they entered was wrong, or an attacker has
   tampered with the data saved by the Storage Provider.

3.5 Encryption Password Derived with Constant Salt

   The encryption password is derived from the master password with
   a constant salt:

            'on', 30, 'zerobin', '1337', 'saltysnacks', password

   This is insecure, because the same master password will always
   generate the same encryption password, so rainbow tables and lookup
   tables can be used to crack the encrypted data.

   Fixing this is left as future work. See Section 5.3.

3.6 Migration Code Always Runs

   This is not a security issue. The code to prompt the user if they
   want to migrate will always run, because the "if" statement's
   condition will always be true:

        var password = $('#setup_master').val();
        localStorage['encryptionPassword'] = // ... snipped ...

        var url = $('#setup_url').val();
        localStorage['settingsURL'] = url;

        // Check if there is existing settings
        if (defined(localStorage['settingsURL']) &&
            defined(localStorage['encryptionPassword'])) {

3.7 Empty Salt Used Without Warning

   If the URL to the Storage Provider is not provided or is empty, an
   empty salt is used:

        if (!defined(localStorage['encryptionPassword']) ||
            !defined(localStorage['settingsURL']) ||
            localStorage['settingsURL'] == '') {
            salt = '';
        } else {

   Instead of using an empty salt, display an error (refuse to generate
   passwords), or warn the user and ask them to opt-in to using the
   empty salt.

3.8 HMAC Key is a Hex String

   When deriving the encryption password or a website password, the
   string used for the HMAC key is hex-encoded. This does not cause any
   immediate weaknesses, however using a key that isn't uniformly
   distributed is not ideal and probably breaks some of HMAC's security

3.9 Salt is a Hex String

   The salt passed to PBKDF2 is a hex string. While this doesn't cause
   any immediate security problems, it is not ideal.

3.10 Password is Output Before Settings are Saved

   When generating a website password, the password is shown to the user
   before the settings are uploaded. This means an attacker who can
   prevent the settings from being uploaded (e.g. by a DoS attack) can
   cause password reuse in some cases:

        1. User generates a password for example.org.
        2. Example.org's password database is breached.
        3. User generates a new password, but the upload fails.
        4. Example.org's password database is breached again.
        5. User generates a new password, but this time it's the same as
           the one generated in (4) because the upload with the
           incremented number failed.

3.11 Browser Tab Race Conditions

   Because of a TOCTTOU bug, it's possible for the password to be
   entered in to the wrong tab. 
   The init() function first obtains the password for the current param
   (domain), and then, AFTER it already has the password, it inserts it
   into the current tab. The tab might have changed in between.
   A malicious website could potentially "steal focus" at just the right
   time to steal a password that was intended for another website.

   To fix this, make sure that the tab the password is going to be
   inserted into is the same as the one that was the source of param.

4. Recommendations

4.1 Unit Tests

   Hash0 could benefit from unit tests, especially of important
   functions like initWithUrl() and generatePassword().

4.2 Use PBKDF2 alone, not PBKDF2 then HMAC

   It doesn't seem necessary to use PBKDF2 to generate a key then to use
   HMAC on top of that to apply the param and number. It would be better
   to encode everything unambiguously into the PBKDF2 salt.

4.3 Do Not Use Passwords as Intermediate Keys

   Hash0 is somewhat strange in that instead of deriving an encryption
   key from the password, it derives another "encryption password." This
   is inefficient at best, and error-prone at worst. Stick to binary
   keys whenever possible.

5. Future Work

5.1 Side Channel Attacks

   Some of the code seems vulnerable to side-channel attacks. For
   example, passwordmaker/hashutils.js uses charAt() to get the
   character at an index into the character set, where the index is
   a secret.

   It could be possible for other scripts running in the browser, or
   other processes running on the system (as other users), to extract
   the key this way.

5.2 URL Reliability

   This audit did not fully explore all possible problems with the URL
   used to find the domain name not matching up with the actual URL of
   the page. Is it possible for a page to lie about its URL, so that
   Hash0 is fooled into giving it the password for another website?

5.3 Salting the Master Password

   The encryption key is derived from the master key with a fixed salt.
   Obviously, a random salt should be used instead. More time is needed
   to design a secure solution.

5.4 Storage Provider Replaying Old Data

   What exactly happens when the Storage Provider replays an old
   ciphertext?  This will cause old passwords to be generated, and
   possibly some passwords re-used. What kind of risk does this pose to
   the user?

6. Conclusion

   No fatal flaws in Hash0 were identified. However, there is room for
   improvement. The most significant issues are 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, and 3.5.
   3.11 may be very important as well, depending on how exploitable it
   is in practice (something this audit did not investigate).

7. References

[1] https://github.com/dannysu/hash0
[2] https://www.pwdhash.com/
[3] http://www.hashapass.com/en/index.html