Gawker Password Database Cracking

If you haven’t heard already, Gawker Media has been hacked! Long story short: The Gnosis crew has taken credit for breaking into Gawker Media’s servers and downloaded a database of roughly 1.3 million user records. One of the big stories here was that Gawker stored user passwords using the block cipher DES (Data Encryption Standard). This encryption scheme only encrypts the first 8 characters of a password before storing it in the database. This means ‘password1sSecureBec@useIt’sLong_4nd_uses_5pecial_characters’ will only be stored as DES(‘password’).

My senior project in college involved using the distributed computing framework Hadoop to crack passwords, so naturally this piqued my interest. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a cluster of computers, so instead I wanted to take the opportunity to learn something new (Cuda comes to mind). Before I jump into playing with Cuda, I first wanted to get a feel for what I was doing by writing some Python code to get me started.

First thing I had to do was filter out the records in the database that were not valid or didn’t have an encrypted password. Of the 1,248,120 records there were only 748,508 that I considered valid. Each password was encrypted using a salt, so I couldn’t simply create a rainbow table of encrypted passwords and do a lookup. Instead I had to crack each password individually. I decided to crack the passwords using a dictionary-based attack. I used a list of the 500 most commonly use passwords as my initial dictionary (The most popular passwords being first). I figured this would be my best bet for quickly shortening the list passwords that I would need to crack. The jist of how this works is the following:
1. Read in a word from the list.
2. Iterate through each account and compute the encrypted value using the user’s given salt.
3. If the computed value is the same as the encrypted password, then we have the original password.
4. If the password was cracked, remove it from the list so we don’t have to worry about it in future computations.

As of this writing I’m at the 39th word and I’ve managed to shorten the list by 16,512 users, or by 0.02%. This doesn’t seem to be going fast enough, so perhaps I’ll look more into doing this with something faster such as C or Cuda. The point of this exercise was really to get myself familiar with the process of cracking these passwords. I was able to quickly write some code in Python to test my ideas, and I quickly found out what ideas worked and what didn’t.

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