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leah blogs: Ken Thompson's Unix password

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Somewhere around 2014 I found an /etc/passwd file in some dumps of the BSD 3 source tree, containing passwords of all the old timers such as Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, Brian W. Kernighan, Steve Bourne and Bill Joy.

Since the DES-based crypt(3) algorithm used for these hashes is well known to be weak (and limited to at most 8 characters), I thought it would be an easy target to just crack these passwords for fun.

Well known tools for this are john and hashcat.

Quickly, I had cracked a fair deal of these passwords, many of which were very weak. (Curiously, bwk used /.,/.,, which is easy to type on a QWERTY keyboard.)

However, kens password eluded my cracking endeavor. Even an exhaustive search over all lower-case letters and digits took several days (back in 2014) and yielded no result. Since the algorithm was developed by Ken Thompson and Robert Morris, I wondered what’s up there. I also realized, that, compared to other password hashing schemes (such as NTLM), crypt(3) turns out to be quite a bit slower to crack (and perhaps was also less optimized).

Did he really use uppercase letters or even special chars? (A 7-bit exhaustive search would still take over 2 years on a modern GPU.)

The topic came up again earlier this month on The Unix Heritage Society mailing list, and I shared my results and frustration of not being able to break kens password.

Finally, today this secret was resolved by Nigel Williams:

From: Nigel Williams <<a href="mailto:nw@retrocomputingtasmania.com">nw@retrocomputingtasmania.com</a>>
Subject: Re: [TUHS] Recovered /etc/passwd files

ken is done:

ZghOT0eRm4U9s:p/q2-q4!

took 4+ days on an AMD Radeon Vega64 running hashcat at about 930MH/s
during that time (those familiar know the hash-rate fluctuates and
slows down towards the end).

This is a chess move in descriptive notation, and the beginning of many common openings. It fits very well to Ken Thompson’s background in computer chess.

I’m very happy that this mystery has been solved now and I’m pleased of the answer.

[Update 16:29: fix comment on chess.]

NP: Mel Stone—By Now

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jepler
8 days ago
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ha!
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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7 days ago
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ChrisDL
7 days ago
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New York
fxer
8 days ago
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Bend, Oregon
acdha
8 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Enemy

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
And, because fundamental physics isn't worked out, enemies are everywhere!


Today's News:
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13 days ago
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12 days ago
GO HERE FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND MAKE MONEY WHILE DOING SO. http://bitly.ws/4qf2
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skywardshadow
13 days ago
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...and the more enemies you defeat, the more that appear.

Hours Before Departure

5 Comments and 13 Shares
They could afford to cut it close because they all had Global Entry.
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13 days ago
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4 public comments
sarcozona
12 days ago
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Airports are such garbage
12 days ago
GO HERE FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND MAKE MONEY WHILE DOING SO. http://bitly.ws/4qf2
diannemharris
13 days ago
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It me.
tedder
13 days ago
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they spent a ton of times in customs on their return (only partly joking)
Uranus
alt_text_bot
13 days ago
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They could afford to cut it close because they all had Global Entry.
Gregidon
13 days ago
Global re-entry?

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Fairy Tales

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Hovertext:
I mean what's wrong with just having a nursery rhyme about the distribution of wool?


Today's News:

Hey geeks, I'll be at NYCC to promote the new book. And, Friday night, October 4, the nerdiest event of the year will happen.

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21 days ago
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22 days ago
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Washington, DC
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rraszews
22 days ago
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People say the original versions of fairy tales were darker, but really, they're worlds where good is mostly rewarded and bad is mostly punished, which was pretty uplifting for people who lived in a world that was mostly full of horrible deaths handed out capriciously.
Columbia, MD
duerig
22 days ago
I wonder if one reason we see them as darker is because of evolving social norms about what 'good' and 'bad' actually is. The misbehaving child who dies might have seemed more deserving in an era when children were not considered inherently helpless, innocent, and incapable of independent choice. And the idea of group-punishment was more acceptable.
rraszews
21 days ago
Also, however cruel "Little Timmy was eaten by a witch because he didn't listen to his parents" is, it's perhaps not as cruel as "Little Timmy died a painful, horrible death from a disease that came seemingly out of nowhere and which we have no idea how to treat or prevent."

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Vampire

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Hovertext:
Come to think of it, probably any mythological creature has some legitimate grievances with humanity.


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29 days ago
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Prescience

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Lots of people called their ships unsinkable before the Titanic. Voicing your hubris doesn't make failure more likely, just more memorable.
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sirshannon
29 days ago
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This is why I buy lottery tickets when it would make a great story. When on vacation, when I find a dollar on the ground, etc.
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alt_text_bot
31 days ago
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Lots of people called their ships unsinkable before the Titanic. Voicing your hubris doesn't make failure more likely, just more memorable.
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