Trying to understand bits of entropy

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CredulousDane

Well-known member
Sep 26, 2020
58
6
Edit: Actually, searched a bit more and this made me a little bit wiser: https://www.quora.com/Is-a-password-of-20-characters-strong-enough-to-use?

Also, I'm updating passwords these days, every single one in the vault, it's a bummer though with files attached to secure notes etc - but just have to wait and see what LastPass concludes and when (in time) and where (in the world) the vault backups are 'related' to.

Original: I've listened to this week's podcast and read page 6 in the notes over and over as well as searched elsewhere. But the bits vs bytes vs number of characters is bit confusing to me. I found this illustration but it's not clear to me how every word in the correct horse battery staple password is 11 bits...

YSiaB.png
 
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The XKCD approach to password protection only works if you assume attackers are not using a dictionary of words. Let's assume they have a dictionary of the 10,000 most likely words, and assume you never use anything but those words in lower case, as depicted. To try all 10K*10K*10K*10K = 10,000,000,000,000,000 possible 4 word passwords if your system could test 1B per second (massive GPU hashing) is 115 days. Not outside the realm of possibility if they KNOW you're using this approach. So the answer is to not let them know what you're doing, and to throw in some capitals and punctuation. And then you can also do Steve's password haystack approach to lengthen a password. funkY!MONkey(BaNANa)PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! is a much better password, that isn't much harder to remember.
 
I also want to put a plug in for @Steve 's Password Haystacks page which I just visited in regards to a Lastpass discussion going on in another thread. You can put a password in, or if you prefer, something with a similar structure to your password in terms of the number of upper case, lower case, digits, and symbols in your password. The web page says nothing ever leaves the page so what you put in isn't going back to the mother ship. You can get an idea of how long a massive cracking array, or even simpler things, would take to crack your password. I would also recommend reading the page. Pay special attention to the discussion about PADDING. So, I put in something like the structure of my Lastpass password and it said 7.34 billion trillion trillion centuries to crack. It's a pass phrase with at least 25 characters and various types of padding. It has actual words in it, so the calculation is optimistic maybe, but I still think I'm OK.

@PHolder , not sure I could remember that password you just proposed. :cool:


May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
@rfrazier - thanks for sharing your thoughts on everything LP :)

This week I created a BW account although I do want to stay at LP so right now I'm cleaning up my vault and realising what I have stored (and wondering why). But nevertheless, the damage is done and all I can do is this, getting reassured that my password has been good enough and I did confirm my iterations count was above 100.000. Have tried haystack as well and yes, it's an optimistic calculation, but still meaningful. For the offline attack I'm around 89 thousand trillion trillion centuries.

Although creating a BW account I'll stick to LP for another year at least, paying for premium and hoping they'll grow stronger from this (after hits of court cases or whatever is coming at them). There a different features I haven't found in BW or maybe it's just that I'm very used to LP.

Also, we don't know if the backup blob/data was from every user or just US or just EU server(s) as well as if it was backup from the week before or 5 years ago.

And those speculations are just fuel to worrying thoughts... so should be let go until we hear from LastPass again :)
 
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@rfrazier - thanks for sharing your thoughts on everything LP :)

This week I created a BW account although I do want to stay at LP so right now <snip>

Although creating a BW account I'll stick to LP for another year at least, paying for premium and hoping they'll grow stronger from this (after hits of court cases or whatever is coming at them). There a different features I haven't found in BW or maybe it's just that I'm very used to LP.

My history is similar to yours. I've used LP for years, first the free version, then finally became a supporting member back before LogMeIn bought them and it was only $12/year.

Then the SHTF. When Firefox made a change to the way they handled plugins/extensions -- which was announced close to year before the change was to be implemented -- LP dragged their feet and missed the date, resulting in a very sick and damaged product. FOR MONTHS! The LP forum was filled with irate users. To make matters worse, LogMeIn doubled the annual fee for a product that barely worked. Then, at some point, it increased again, making the price $36/year. For a single user!

I got sick of waiting for them to fix it and threatened to go back to being a free user if they didn't fix it before my subscription expired. They didn't (fix it) and I did. (drop my sub.) Eventually they fixed it, but it took a long time. Frankly, I was disappointed with Leo and Steve around this time, because I was a faithful Security Now listener, and had not heard them breathe a word about how LP screwed the pooch in not being ready for the Firefox transition. It was probably a time when LP was still a sponsor, so it's *kinda* understandable, but my SN listening became less frequent after that. Eventually, both Leo and Steve moved away from LP, of course...

I continued to use the free version until 2021, when the change was made to restrict free users to either computer or mobile device mode. At that time, I discovered the Family Plan, which I consider to be a good value. Instead of a single user for $36/year, I could now have 5 users for a modest amount more. Not to mention the sharing options. I've been relatively happy with LP since that time, but am disappointed with their performance in the wake of this recent breach, especially when they don't appear to acknowledge some of the things Steve has divulged in the most recent two podcasts.

Like you, I've created a Bitwarden account and will be giving it a test run in the upcoming future. I see that they have similar features to LP, as well as a family plan. I'm a little curious to learn how it handles secure notes and attachments, which I use quite often in LP. Time will tell!

I've also played on the Haystacks page, but those results have to be taken with several teaspoons of salt, IMO. The numbers don't really mean what a superficial look makes them appear to be. The times listed only represent how long it would take to exhaust every possible password for a combination of characters with a specified degree of entropy. Theoretically, the first password attempted would seem to have the same probability of being correct as the last one, so a successful brute force hack could take zero seconds, several million trillion centuries, or anywhere in between. It's fun, maybe somewhat comforting, to see these big numbers, but it doesn't really tell me a whole lot that I can hang my hat on...
 
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From SN episode 905: "...each character, when truly chosen randomly from a set of 95 possible characters, contributes 6.57 bits of entropy"
source: Show notes from Security Now! episode 905 - 01-10-23

That's using 4 types of complexity to get 95 standard ASCII characters.

I'm a Password Haystacks believer. I've been using random words along with padding since Steve's Password Haystacks episode. I only use it for password that I know I can't rely on my password manager to fill such as my master password, or my Windows sign-on. For any password that will regularly be handled by my password manager, I save time and use the random password generator.
 
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I've been using random words along with padding since Steve's Password Haystacks episode. I only use it for password that I know I can't rely on my password manager to fill such as my master password, or my Windows sign-on. For any password that will regularly be handled by my password manager, I save time and use the random password generator.
I think this is a very sound strategy. Although I hadn't really consciously planned it that way, it's effectively what I do, as well. Create a master password that's very secure and easy enough to remember, using the lessons learned from Haystacks, and let a password manager create long, complex passwords for websites and online accounts. Those are the ones most at-risk in security breaches and that you're often required to change. Might as well let the password manager do the heavy lifting on the creation of the new ones!
 
I do think my master password has padding but will listen to the shortened version of padding and the haystack calculator as several of you have mentioned.

I also use random passwords, now even more complex (when updating all my logins - am cleaning my vault already) and it's only a few that I could see the need for to remember outside of my vault. This could be, on a side note, one feature I haven't been able to spot at Bitwarden, the security mail notification of a login from a new location - it's at least a LastPass premium feature. Of course, it's no good against brute force but more as a regular login security feature.
 
I've been using Bitwarden and recently started updating older passwords and adding my recent Yubikeys wherever possible. As mentioned above, I ran a few passwords through Haystacks just to be sure they were 'good'. I also started using randomly generated passwords that are longer than the shorter ones they replaced.

I am still 'playing' with Passwordsafe, slowly populating it since there doesn't seem to be an easy way to import from BW. I like a number of PWS's features, mostly the portable version, plus the fact that the Yubikey option does not even appear at the login screen until a key is plugged in. Even if someone were to get hold of a copy with databases it doesn't give away whether a Yubikey was needed or not.

I plan on keeping both BW and PWS, both have their good points so why not. Also they are backups for each other.
 
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With the newly updated lastpass extension mess (shotcuts being all over the place and taking over when writing posts like this) - I copied all my data to bitwarden - just in case - to have a backup. I want to move on with lastpass but they need to update that extension again. I'll be missing much by moving to bitwarden. Unfortunately.

But I am considering if lastpass free version could be enough for the time being: https://www.lastpass.com/pricing/lastpass-premium-vs-free
 
This calculator gives me 118 bits of entropy for my old LastPass password;
I would actually say it's really about half of that but more than enough to withstand attack and cost compute time.
https://www.omnicalculator.com/other/password-entr...

This one gives me 110 bits.
https://rumkin.com/tools/password/

In some ways, they are more human-readable than Password Haystacks from @Steve (but his page gives an indication of how long it can withstand attack.....)
 
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At the risk of jinxing myself, I'm not having any problems with the LP 4.107.0 extension in Brave. I'm on the free plan. I used to pay but let it drop a while back.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
I'm afraid I need to modify my statement. EDIT to add more detail.
Public service announcement for Lastpass users. My LP extension is working fine in Brave and Firefox. However, ALL the extension settings were apparently reset in both browsers including things like whether I want auto fill, auto logoff, whether to fill addresses, whether to fill credit cards, etc. So, check your extension settings to make sure they haven't changed. You may be surprised what they're set to, and they may not be what you want or set before. It also keeps wanting to give me a tour of my vault and I keep saying never. This is very poor update management in my opinion.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
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I'm afraid I need to modify my statement. My LP extension is working fine in Brave. However, the extension settings were apparently reset including things like whether I want auto fill, auto logoff, etc. So, check your extension settings to make sure they haven't changed.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron

I've checked the settings many times, it's more keyboard shotcuts that either won't work or shows an lp pop-up or just the fact the writing a capital l opens the vault even though I did not configure that :( - but thanks though.

EDIT: My problem has been solved thx to AshC over at the LP community! >> " One suggestion you can test is temporarily disabling the new Save and Fill functionality from within your Vault's Advanced Options. "
 
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This calculator gives me 118 bits of entropy for my old LastPass password;
I would actually say it's really about half of that but more than enough to withstand attack and cost compute time.
https://www.omnicalculator.com/other/password-entr...

This one gives me 110 bits.
https://rumkin.com/tools/password/

In some ways, they are more human-readable than Password Haystacks from @Steve (but his page gives an indication of how long it can withstand attack.....)

Good sites to save :)

Only checked with the omnicalculator - and got an entropy of 131 bits (edited: actually 163 bits, forgot some padding)

You say yours is really more like half of the 118 bits - how do you get to that?
 
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Good sites to save :)

Only checked with the omnicalculator - and got an entropy of 131 bits (edited: actually 163 bits, forgot some padding)

You say yours is really more like half of the 118 bits - how do you get to that?
I assume my human random characters are a mix of completely and not random characters ;)
 
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