Towards practical attacks on Argon2i and balloon hashing

J.F. Alwen, J. Blocki, in:, IEEE, 2017.

Conference Paper | Published | English

Scopus indexed
Alwen, Joel FIST Austria; Blocki, Jeremiah
The algorithm Argon2i-B of Biryukov, Dinu and Khovratovich is currently being considered by the IRTF (Internet Research Task Force) as a new de-facto standard for password hashing. An older version (Argon2i-A) of the same algorithm was chosen as the winner of the recent Password Hashing Competition. An important competitor to Argon2i-B is the recently introduced Balloon Hashing (BH) algorithm of Corrigan-Gibs, Boneh and Schechter. A key security desiderata for any such algorithm is that evaluating it (even using a custom device) requires a large amount of memory amortized across multiple instances. Alwen and Blocki (CRYPTO 2016) introduced a class of theoretical attacks against Argon2i-A and BH. While these attacks yield large asymptotic reductions in the amount of memory, it was not, a priori, clear if (1) they can be extended to the newer Argon2i-B, (2) the attacks are effective on any algorithm for practical parameter ranges (e.g., 1GB of memory) and (3) if they can be effectively instantiated against any algorithm under realistic hardware constrains. In this work we answer all three of these questions in the affirmative for all three algorithms. This is also the first work to analyze the security of Argon2i-B. In more detail, we extend the theoretical attacks of Alwen and Blocki (CRYPTO 2016) to the recent Argon2i-B proposal demonstrating severe asymptotic deficiencies in its security. Next we introduce several novel heuristics for improving the attack's concrete memory efficiency even when on-chip memory bandwidth is bounded. We then simulate our attacks on randomly sampled Argon2i-A, Argon2i-B and BH instances and measure the resulting memory consumption for various practical parameter ranges and for a variety of upperbounds on the amount of parallelism available to the attacker. Finally we describe, implement, and test a new heuristic for applying the Alwen-Blocki attack to functions employing a technique developed by Corrigan-Gibs et al. for improving concrete security of memory-hard functions. We analyze the collected data and show the effects various parameters have on the memory consumption of the attack. In particular, we can draw several interesting conclusions about the level of security provided by these functions. · For the Alwen-Blocki attack to fail against practical memory parameters, Argon2i-B must be instantiated with more than 10 passes on memory - beyond the "paranoid" parameter setting in the current IRTF proposal. · The technique of Corrigan-Gibs for improving security can also be overcome by the Alwen-Blocki attack under realistic hardware constraints. · On a positive note, both the asymptotic and concrete security of Argon2i-B seem to improve on that of Argon2i-A.
Publishing Year
Date Published
Article Number
EuroS&P: European Symposium on Security and Privacy
Conference Location
Paris, France
Conference Date
2017-04-26 – 2017-04-28

Cite this

Alwen JF, Blocki J. Towards practical attacks on Argon2i and balloon hashing. In: IEEE; 2017. doi:10.1109/EuroSP.2017.47
Alwen, J. F., & Blocki, J. (2017). Towards practical attacks on Argon2i and balloon hashing. Presented at the EuroS&P: European Symposium on Security and Privacy, Paris, France: IEEE.
Alwen, Joel F, and Jeremiah Blocki. “Towards Practical Attacks on Argon2i and Balloon Hashing.” IEEE, 2017.
J. F. Alwen and J. Blocki, “Towards practical attacks on Argon2i and balloon hashing,” presented at the EuroS&P: European Symposium on Security and Privacy, Paris, France, 2017.
Alwen JF, Blocki J. 2017. Towards practical attacks on Argon2i and balloon hashing. EuroS&P: European Symposium on Security and Privacy, 7961977.
Alwen, Joel F., and Jeremiah Blocki. Towards Practical Attacks on Argon2i and Balloon Hashing. 7961977, IEEE, 2017, doi:10.1109/EuroSP.2017.47.
All files available under the following license(s):
Copyright Statement:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. [...]

Link(s) to Main File(s)
Access Level
OA Open Access


Marked Publications

Open Data IST Research Explorer

Search this title in

Google Scholar
ISBN Search