back to article SSD tools crack passwords 100 times faster

Password-cracking tools optimised to work with SSDs have achieved speeds up to 100 times quicker than previously possible. After optimising its rainbow tables of password hashes to make use of SSDs Swiss security firm Objectif Sécurité was able to crack 14-digit WinXP passwords with special characters in just 5.3 seconds. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was one of the 14 character passwords


    1. Anonymous Hero

      Don't be a


  2. Adrian Challinor

    Something doesn't ring true here

    If the issue was really hard disk speeds, and you want to crack a password, why not simply load the tables in to RAM? 8GB is a lot, but it is not an unreasonable amount. Lets check this out against a 64 bit CPU with 12GB of ram.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      80GB not 8

      "an SSD and optimised tables containing 80GB of password hashes"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SSD tools crack passwords 100 times faster

        Just get a Dell PowerEdge M710 £18,246 with 96GB RAM.

        For £21,967 you can get a Dell PowerEdge M905 with 192GB RAM...

    2. Steven Knox

      That was rather the point.

      The 8GB hash tables were designed to be loaded into RAM because HDDS were too slow. That meant they couldn't be much bigger than 8GB at the time the tool was developed, because even the best machines wouldn't have more than than available, so there would be constant (slow) HDD churn; that was the point of the exercise.

      By optimizing their tool, they showed that they could store tables that were 10x as big on an SSD (a HDD would be too slow), load them incrementally into RAM, and still get an exponential performance increase.

      In short, slow HDD speeds led to smaller tables led to decreased performance. Faster speeds allow more swapping allows larger tables allows increased performance. The ultimate cause of the bottleneck, and of the solution? HDD speeds.

  3. Tom from the States

    "Account lockout after x number of tries"

    If you use a GPO to lock out accounts after a short number of attempts, as many financial institutions do, then that will put an end to the outside cracking party. Of course, you perhaps just need the SAM file to hack it off-line. In that case, you'd sure as heck better trust your admins.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch

      account lockout

      You had the right idea the second time. The idea of rainbow tables is to "reverse" the hashing function, so obviously it needs to know the hash values.

    3. Joe Montana

      Locking out accounts = bad

      This cracking is done based on having the password hashes.. However, because of the way windows authentication works you only actually need the hashes and don't need to crack them.

      As for a lockout on unsuccessful attempts, you should lock out the source of the attack not the account they're trying.. if you do that, then someone just needs a list of all your usernames and they can cause absolute havoc by intentionally locking out all of your accounts...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    Lotus Notes introduces an exponential delay when an incorrect password is entered. I believe after the 3rd incorrect entry, a 1 second delay is added, going to 2 seconds on the 4th, 4 seconds on the 5th , 8 on the 6th etc. etc.

    Windows XP Security. Rubbish.

    Answer = Windows 7

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      A little research into Rainbow tables on your behalf would have been nice first.

      It doesn't matter *what* your system adds to the retry delay because a Rainbow table gives you the correct password first time. Unless your typing is so damn awful you shouldn't even own a computer you will gain access on the first attempt.

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge


      Trust Notes to try to make a software bug a security "feature."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      No it doesn't

      Not when you use the API...

  5. johno

    It's only the LMHash that it work on

    Objectif Sécurité was able to crack 14-digit WinXP passwords with special characters in just 5.3 seconds.

    Should really say

    Objectif Sécurité was able to crack 14-digit LMHash passwords with special characters in just 5.3 seconds.

    So its only really cracking two 7 digit passwords in the time and LMHash converts all lower case alpha's to upper case. So thats only 26 alpha nout 52

    LMHash is stored by XP for backwards compatability with 95/98 so if you don't need network access to a 95/98 system then you should have LMHash turned off.

    Now if it could crack NTLM Hash in that time it would be somthing to worry about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It can.

      It can crack NTLM, perhaps not in 5.3 seconds but it's definitely in the minutes range. The time consuming factor with a Rainbow table attack is generating the table in the first place and having fast enough storage to use it quickly. Even with traditional rotating media it's proabably only a matter of a couple of minutes maximum though.

      The solution to a Rainbow attack is to lock down physical access to your hardware and manage file/network permissions properly because for a Rainbow attack to succeed the attacker has to have access to your pasword hashes.

    2. Joe Montana

      Crack NTLM?

      NTLM passwords are not very strong either, better than lanman yes but still far weaker than the password encryption used by unix systems.

      That said, why bother cracking them at all? windows authentication lets you authenticate using the hash directly without ever having to know what the plaintext password is.

      1. A J Stiles

        Do what?

        "windows authentication lets you authenticate using the hash directly without ever having to know what the plaintext password is" -- then what was the point of hashing the password in the first place?

        Somebody, please tell me that the quoted sentence above is not true; because providing the ability to login with the hash alone is even less secure than storing unencrypted passwords.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          err.'s not true.

          Well it sort of is. Loads of systems use the hash to validate passwords rather than reversing them back into cleartext - the missing part of the argument is that hashes are SALTED(e.g. you get a challenge word, ad it to your password locally then hash the answer. Correct hash as calculated at the server side = correct password entered). It's more detailed than that, read up on MD4, MS-Chap v1 and v2, and MD5 while you're at it.

  6. Dunhill

    Secure ??

    If it only take 5 seconds to crack a password, why take the time to create one (write it on the side of the pc in case you forget it etc)

    Oh sorry , i just read that most windows users already follow that line of not creating passwords

    .... i said nothing

  7. Tom Chiverton 1

    lock out accounts after a short number of attempts

    That's not how a Rainbow attack works*.

    Thanks for playing though

    *they work offline by brute forcing the encrypted hash to derive a plausible plaintext.

  8. Colin Guthrie

    Salty goodness

    @Tom I don't think they are trying to login, but rather taking the encrypted hash of the password and ultimately working out what password would be needed to generate that hash.

    If this is the case, they are suggesting the use of a lookup table here (which makes sense as seeking in the lookup table would be faster on SSD). Does that mean that the hashes they are trying to crack are not salted? Salting generally makes lookup tables useless due to the explosion of combinations needed.

  9. Chris Walton
    Black Helicopters

    @ Account lockout after x number of tries

    you are reffering to brute forcing a password on a running system, rainbow crack is about taking the encrypted hash of a password - straight from disk and calculating the actual password - GPO can't help you here.

  10. Cameron Colley

    RE: "Account lockout after x number of tries" & Notes

    As I understand it this isn't about trying all the passwords against the system -- the "brute force" in the article refers to matching password hashes to tables of known hashes off-line.

    The clever part being finding ways to match the password hashes to those in your tables as quickly as possible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      What a civilised reply. Thanks, the "brute force" in the article led me astray, this is not my area of specialism obviously. Much more polite than the AC - "Prat" response.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would have thought...

    ... a beefy CPU could generate and compare password hashes faster than it could read them in from an 80GB file stored on any sort of disc?

    Seems to me that to compare the hash against an 8GB table in 5.3 seconds would require a minimum 1510 MB/s throughput. What kind of SSD did they say they were using? Seems more likely to be an array of at least 5 such discs.

    At any rate, if someone can get your password hash off your system then you're screwed anyway. Doesn't matter how many locks you had on the door because the burglars have already climbed in through the window(s).

    1. TKW

      But you don't need to read all of it.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I have seen...

      ...500 Mb/s streaming, constant throughput with ordinary HDD SAN RAIDs (16 disks in RAID10 on a 4 Gbit/s channel) so tripling throughput with SSDs where physical parameters like disc rotation and head movement are removed is not that far out. Gotta put it on a fast channel though. Or RAID it over several channels. But definitely doable, especially in a lab.

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      "minimum 1510 MB/s throughput"

      Two of these:

      RAID zero'd together in software could do that for you on a suitable mobo. Hmm, what is the correct term for something faster than fuck?

  12. tom 24

    "Ageing" Athlon64 XP 4400+???

    Wait, I've been playing games on an "ageing" system? Great, now I have to upgrade.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, sorry 'bout that..

      Might have been bleeding edge this morning but by lunchtime tomorrow it's just a door stopper.

  13. Brian Miller

    Please read up on hashes and passwords before posting

    Come on, guys, do a little reading before posting.

    #1: The password that was "broken" was a broken implementation from the start. The Microsoft "gurus" did a lousy job with the original password "encryption" so it is not that difficult to break it. Read the Wikipedia entry.

    #2: Rainbow tables contain a set of precomputed values, so all you have to do is get the hash, and look it up. This comes down to how big your table is, and how fast the information is accessed.

    #3: Once the password is cracked, then it is entered *once* for authentication, and authentication is granted.

    #4: 80Gb SSD vs 8Gb HDD. This is news that it runs faster?? No, really? A rainbow table an order of magnitude larger can crack a password faster? Wow. So. Amazingly. Brilliant.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      hashes of hashes

      My database knowledge is a bit rusty, but surely with a properly organised dataset, such as a lookup table. Actual readspeed, or size, shouldn't make much difference over a large number of reads, because it needn't do a large number. It should be able to go straight to where the value is expected to be, and try and read it.

  14. Bob 18

    300 billion?

    For those of us West of the pond... by 300 BILLION passwords per second, do you mean 300 * 10^6?

    1. I'm Brian and so's my wife

      Re: 300 billion?

      The UK billion (10^12) is not in common use at all. The American billion (10^9) is pretty much ubiquitous.

      (we'll overlook your typo [10^6] and assume you meant 10^9)

    2. TKW
      Thumb Down


      That would be a million in any language.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: 300 billion about 100-1000 passwords per CPU clock cycle for any processor in production today. Since the original source (linked from the article) cites this as "worst case" performance, I think we can assume that this is a typo for something RATHER A LOT of orders of magnitude smaller.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Yes, they really are that fast

        The reason is that all the heavy CPU work is done already in creating the rainbow tables. Essentially you get at the hashed version of the password and look it up in the table to find the password associated with it.

        In the same way that you don't have to look at every word in a paper dictionary to find the one you want, you don't have to look at every entry in the rainbow table to find the password you want. They are arranged in such a way that it is easy to find the one you want.

        Systems other than Windows defend against rainbow table attacks by adding a "salt" to the password so that there are trillions of different hashed versions of the password that match to the same plaintext version.

  15. J-Wick

    Ok, I'm not very bright, but....

    isn't the speed of your hard disk usually the bottleneck for most non-trivial problems (i.e. when you have more data than you can fit into memory at once)?

    i.e. - is this much of a surprise?

    1. Jesse
      Thumb Down

      You have it.

      You are right. By taking basic computer principles (mathematics, encryption, CPU/Memory/Hard Disk speeds) and throwing them into an article, they were able to cloud the main details and make this event seem newsworthy. The real magic is that they took most of the CPU intensive work and utilized an 80 Gigabyte dictionary so that the CPU doesn't have much work remaining. At that point, WTF else is there besides some back-and-forth between disk and memory? And then, lo and behold, a faster hard disk gives better overall results. WOW! (sarcasm.)

  16. Christopher Key.

    Am I missing something?

    Am I missing something?

    With a rainbow table, you precompute hashes for some dictionary of passwords, and then look up the hash of the sought password within that list. Unless you're doing a linear scan through the list of hashes, HD bandwidth shouldn't be relevant. Sure, SSDs may give lookups a couple of orders of magnitude quicker, but I can't see the use in being able to crack a password in 1ms over 100ms.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    New Database benchmark perhaps

    So given this is basicly looking up in a rainbow table to find the predecrypted password. Why dont they just use a database; As that's all there doing in effect, albiet a rather basic table. Though one that would atleast allow for expansion using other forms of encryption per encypted key(jumble of characters).

    If you did it like that you could populate the tables from many sources, adding as many forms of encyption as you wished entires.

    But that would be realy realy hard and nobody would of ever done anything like that :).

    I would also add as a finaly thought for the cheap homebrew people, raptor HD's and other forms of fast HD along with RAID have been around for a while now, certainly more reliable. though for such a task a SSD makes sence given once initialy loaded in the way they are using it then the wear and tear would be next to nothing. Though if I was doing alot of writes I would be looking at the warranty and the like in more detail than the small print on a deal with the devil.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Rainbow tables isn't a simple index look up. What you do is run the hash through an algorithm until it matches the end-node of a rainbow chain. Then you know the password is in that chain so you run through the chain to find it. There's more processing than simple look ups.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "so given that this is basically..."

      "... looking up in a rainbow table to find the predecrypted password" Which it isn't.

      "Why dont they just use a database". Because it isn't.

      Look up how rainbow tables work- it's not just a look up.

  18. Keith T

    the distribution of the tools of crime and warfare need to be legally controlled.

    I have a simple solution to the security problem.

    It is one used by banks, armies, and airforces the world over.

    Someone starts marketing a tool specifically designed to damage your equipment, you get a law passed to make that activity illegal and you toss them in jail for a few years.

    I have no problem with people doing security research, but as with surface to air missiles and burglary equipment, the distribution of the tools of crime and warfare need to be legally controlled.

    Openly encryption cracking tools is openly distributing tools of crime and warfare.

    1. zonky

      Yes, because this approach to shotguns has prevented

      all bank robberies. Oh. Hang on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Think of it like a crowbar: I've got a crowbar, I use it to wreck things and leaver things when I'm doing DIY. I leave it locked in my shead because I am fully aware that it can be used to open doors and windows on my house. The breaking and entering of my house would be a specific crime, so no new 'anti-crowbar' law required. It's the same with tools like these, the illigal use of them is illigal it shouldn't be the posession of them (like in Germany? I can't remember off-hand.)

    3. Anonymous Cow

      Internet fail

      Welcome to the internet, thanks for playing. You lost.

      I'll assume you're not a complete troll and tell you why:

      1. Unenforceability. To stop the dissemination of such knowledge (and it is knowledge that is dangerous here; once one person creates the theory, thousands more can implement it) you need to be able to take down web sites, FTP sites, Torrents, Usenet messages, and so on in any jurisdiction in the world. Possibly hosted on hacked computers, without the owners' knowledge. G'luck. (Oh, and by the way, the bad guys will be exchanging it on USB keys, under the table at the pub.)

      2. Dual use. These tools have legitimate applications (password strength checks, lost password recovery). The tools that are out-and-out for criminal purposes (bank login harvesters, botnet tools, etc) are, surprise surprise, criminal. (But, oh wait, they're still out there... makes you wonder, doesn't it?)

      3. Full disclosure. It's been found that, without the threat of a publically-available exploit, software companies *will not fix* their bugs. Microsoft has already switched to a more secure password hash (starting from Win2K) and admins who know how to configure their systems can laugh at this attack (as can those running Vista). Without things like l0phtcrack, this wouldn't have happened. We'd all be sitting ducks for those who are already ignoring the law.

  19. Stuart Halliday

    Is speed everything?

    Does it really matter if it was done in 5secs or 50secs?

    To do this you had to nick the hard drive in the first place surely?

    Not really the sort of program to run on a hacked computer without the user noticing isn't it?

    You'd just hook up the drive via a USB enclosure and leave the program running over night?

    Or am I missing something?

    1. jtwaldo

      you are missing something

      You get the hashes, transfer them to a hardware optimized (SSD, GPUs, etc) host and run the crack there. There are plenty of legit uses for this technology. eDiscovery etc...

  20. neill miller

    300 000 000

    it's gotta be 300 000 000 whatever you use US/UK measuring

    the cpu is a 4400 dual core, and you need at least a few compares/memory reads for one check, even within the cpu-cache, AFAIK they run 2300MHz

    2300x2/300 = 15.3 cycles per check, sounds quick but possible

    there's one aspect of SSD though everyone seems to forget: latency!

  21. Pete 8

    Why bother

    When you dont need to enter those passwords to get access to what is needed.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    "account lockout"

    Let's take it as read that no real logon attempts are involved in this attack.

    Now, account lockout as a "security measure" is actually as old as the hills (e.g. VMS had it back in version minus 27, in 1890 or something like that).

    But the moment account lockout as a security measure was introduced it was a double edged sword.

    If you wanted to target an account for a Denial of Service attack, suddenly it was trivial.

    Obviously, today's IT people are mostly young enough to never experienced that kind of thing (or they're mostly old enough to have known it and forgotten).

    "isn't the speed of your hard disk usually the bottleneck for most non-trivial problems (i.e. when you have more data than you can fit into memory at once)?"

    Quite. There's no news here, and certainly no analysis.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    not suprising!

    this isnt suprising...the process is disk-bound - obviously as they have to pagein/out sections of rainbox table into memory.

    they can probably get this speed down to 3 seconds or less by using RAID on the SSD eg 24 SSDs in a RAID -,7224.html

  24. Lord Zedd
    Dead Vulture

    Good for you?

    Freedom has another chip taken out of it.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Why not just use RAM?

    So, 10x larger rainbow table + SSD with several times faster random read & access than HDD yields a 100x improvement? Surprise, surprise, who would have thought of that!

    The 80GB table seems irrelevant - you can just load it into RAM. And not just 80GB - as commenter above mentioned: Dell PowerEdge 900 with 256GB RAM costs $37k over the big pond, if you prefer AMD, the 256GB PE 905 can be yours even cheaper: $34k.

    And according to Moore's law, a 512GB machine should cost the same by next autumn...

    This is peanuts for a black hat organization...

  26. Peter Galbavy

    DB's and indexes

    Trying to use a traditional database approach and index the hashes would fail big time. Think about how indexes work and the size of the index. If the rainbow tables are organised in any sensible binary-search way already you will not gain anything except creating an index multiple times the size of the data. This is specialised data so should already be organised in a specific way.

    As for Keith T and using the "law"... I do hope that was irony. I really do. Else you get a big FAIL sticker on your exercise book.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Seems like a lot of effort to... out:


  28. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    The modern billion

    According to

    the British government adopted billion = 10^9 (1 000 000 000) in 1974.

    It also indicated the old trillion was a million billion, but I assumed it was a billion billion. I was 8 in 1974 and these numbers have a certain interest at a certain age... if you're weird.

  29. Iggle Piggle


    spreading the work across 10x 8GB machines (each with 1/10th of the table) would also have given an improved speed.

    I am curious. Could someone give me a simple explanation as to what Unix does that is so much stronger?

    1. Keith Oldham

      Re : Presumably

      I'm not by any stretch any kind of expert about this and I guess you should do some research but for what it's worth ..

      Most Unix-like OS now use a randomly-generated 'salt' string (each time password is created/changed ) and use it as part of the hashing function, storing the salt, along with the hash as the users 'credentials'. This essentially forces the cracker to generate another rainbow table set for every permutation generated by the salt - so for a 256-bit salt - that means 2^256 rainbow tables of 80GB or whatever need to be pre-computed OR a specific table needs to be generated for every individual password

      Not sure about Windows - I don't have anything to do with it anymore. But I don't think salting was used pre-Vista

      Hope this helps

  30. Graham Bartlett

    @Keith T

    Call us back when you've figured out how to get your laws to apply to all jurisdictions in which the Internet can be received. I doubt North Korea and Burma will be too cooperative. Oh, and you also need to get local police to enforce that law too, which is a further issue in Russia, Nigeria and other countries with endemic corruption.

    And that's just civilian use of it. How's about the Chinese military figuring out ways to crack Pentagon security? Reckon they're going to follow your law?

    You might be surprised to find how little control there is over surface-to-air missiles. If you're an organised crime gang in one city, then you might have problems, sure. But if you're an organised crime gang or rebel faction that forms the de-facto government of a region: "of course we can supply those, sir, will you be paying in US dollars or gold...?"

    And burglary equipment - oh boy. I can go down to B&Q now and come out with a dozen crowbars, a couple of sledgehammers and a felling axe. More subtly, it's trivially easy to order a lockpick gun online, especially since it's legal in many countries aroune the world.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    It is a well know fact to those that know it well..

    You can get a much quicker lookup for MD5 (not that the article is on about MD5) by using Google (probably the best tool to search for weak password hashes).

    1. Loads of web sites use the MD5 hash of the page title as the filename

    2. Page names & filenames are indexed by Google

    3. Most simple passwords are, somewhere in the world, used as a page title, and so it's hash in searchable in Google.

    Simple example, MD5 hash = 6750AEA347AC766AF296266711A6171B

    Google search =

    Hmmm...I'd guess that the password is 'manhattan'

    Try it.

    PS. This does not apply to salted hashes, and as everybody knows ALWAYS SALT YOUR HASH.

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