Ashley Madison part 2: Cryptanalysis

Lets look at these password hashes:


Now when looking at the passwords, I notice that they all start with the marker “$2a$12$”.

This is Linux /etc/shadow notation. Linux keep the passwords in the /etc/shadow file. This file is readable only to root accounts. It contains the password hashes of all users. We call “shadow” because it is a shadow file of the /etc/passwd file. /etc/passwd is world readable, so we obviously don’t want to store our password hashes in this file. When we shadow the password file, /etc/passwd will only store an “x” for the password.

$ sudo cat /etc/passwd

This contains our username:password (shadowed)

Now if I look at the contents of our shadow file (I changed the salt and hash)

$ sudo cat /etc/shadow

This contains our username:$algorithm$salt$hashed password, followed by information regarding password changes. In this case, the $1$ means the hash was MD5.

Some other prefixes I found:

$0$ – DES
$2$, $2a$ = Blowfish
$3$ = NT hash
$5$ = SHA-256
$6$ = SHA-512

Back to the marker “$2a$12$” in the database. I know that the passwords were hashed with the Blowfish algorithm. The bcrypt algorithm implements Blowfish, so I’m that was the algorithm the website used to hash password. The $12$ means a cost factor of 12, or 12 rounds of bcrypt.

bcrypt, along with scrypt and PBKDF2 are a family of algorithms for hashing passwords. They are all considered “slow” for a computer to perform in relation to other algorithms like MD5 or SHA, so that if a database is compromised and the hashes revealed to an outsider, any brute force or dictionary attacks will be handicapped.

bcrypt has the advantage of being hard for a GPU to do. GPUs are many times faster at performing hashes then the CPU, so crackers often utilize one or more GPUs in parallel to crack passwords. According to

“Bcrypt happens to heavily rely on accesses to a table which is constantly altered throughout the algorithm execution. This is very fast on a PC, much less so on a GPU, where memory is shared and all cores compete for control of the internal memory bus.”

With that being said, it is unlikely I will be able to crack any passwords from this database.

Another thing I noticed was the repeated password of “111111Iwillneverdoitagain”. I would assume that this is how the website disabled accounts, since it would be extremely difficult to find a string whose hash equals “111111Iwillneverdoitagain”.

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