Kristian Lunde

Archive for the ‘web security’ tag

Unsecure password practices

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Dansnetwork has a short an simple article explaining the simplest way of securing user passwords on the web. If you are new to authorization on the web, this article will give you a quick introduction to hashing methods and what not to do when dealing with authorization information.


Still this article is a bit to basic, since it does not discuss rainbow table attacks, which could with ease break most of the passwords. My previous article discuss how to avoid rainbow table attacks.

Written by Kristian Lunde

July 18th, 2008 at 9:37 am

Password encryption using PHP

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A recent post on linked to a article about “password encryption using PHP” written by Stefan Ashwell on In this article he illustrate a how to save user passwords and authenticating users using the sha1 hashing algorithm.

First of all lets all agree that hashing passwords are basics requirements for a secure web application, but is a simple hashing of the password enough? I do not think so.

Here is the scenario, Someone breaks into your system (not through the web application, but for instance through an ssh connection), they get access to your user database or file where you store user account information.  The intruder is now in possession of the password and user name of all your users, but still the passwords are hashed with md5, sha1 or an similar hashing method. If the intruder is determined to get into your system and mess up, he may now try to decrypt the passwords using a  dictionary word file and brute force (also known as rainbow tables). This method is quite common and is not advanced at all, all it does is looping through the dictionary file, which contains all words and common password phrases, do a md5 or sha1 hashing of these words and see if it matches up to the hashed password, if it does it has found a match, and the intruder is able to log into the account.

Even though this brute force method might take some time, he will eventually get the passwords and get full access to the users account. There are however methods to complicate this and even make it impossible for the intruder to get the password using brute force method and that is called salting your password.


  2. $salt = '2glkpe895';
  3. $password = $_POST['password'];
  5. $encrypted_password = sha1($salt . $password . $salt);

As you can see the salt is an secret string which is only used by your application, it is prepended and appended to the password. You could of course also go the extra mile and split the password in two and add the salt in the middle of the password, but there might not be any point in doing that.

This makes the word not like any word you will find in an dictionary and therefore the brute force method will not find the password.

The point is that if the intruder get a partial access to some of your system, for instance the user database, it will not be enough to get access to the total system because the security system is layered, one layer in your code, and one layer in your user database.

I do not say that this method is a 100 percent secure but it is is way more secure than not using a salted password.

Written by Kristian Lunde

July 10th, 2008 at 10:28 am

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