Since users rely on passwords to authenticate themselves to computer systems, adversaries attempt to recover those passwords. To prevent such a recovery, various password hashing schemes can be used to store passwords securely. However, recent advances in the graphics processing unit (GPU) hardware challenge the way we have to look at secure password storage. GPU's have proven to be suitable for cryptographic operations and provide a significant speedup in performance compared to traditional central processing units (CPU's).
This research focuses on the security requirements and properties of prevalent password hashing schemes. Moreover, we present a proof of concept that launches an exhaustive search attack on the MD5-crypt password hashing scheme using modern GPU's. We show that it is possible to achieve a performance of 880 000 hashes per second, using different optimization techniques. Therefore our implementation, executed on a typical GPU, is more than 30 times faster than equally priced CPU hardware. With this performance increase, `complex' passwords with a length of 8 characters are now becoming feasible to crack. In addition, we show that between 50% and 80% of the passwords in a leaked database could be recovered within 2 months of computation time on one Nvidia GeForce 295 GTX.