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Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2012 13:22:43 +0400
From: Vladimir Vorontsov <>
To: Solar Designer <>
CC: George Argyros <>,, Aggelos Kiayias <>, 
 gifts <>,
 Anthony Ferrara <>, 
 Pierre Joye <>
Subject: Re: Randomness Attacks Against PHP Applications

Hi all,


First, thx for your work again.
I have a question to
Why you are using Request Tweens expect of Triple Requests?

Please, pay your attention to slide 13 from:

Your Adversarial Time Synchronization (ATS) methodical is great.
But it is not applicable to real web-projects whose architecture
includes an application server and front-end.

During the real audits on Web applications we are using many tricks to
know application server timestamp and pid:

1. phpinfo() output with mod_uniqueid (very common). To decode uniqueid
string use web service

2. /server-status output discovered by at this post:

3. others application outputs

23.09.12, 9:14, Solar Designer пишет:
> George,
> I watched a video of your USENIX Security talk the other day (after I
> was done with my experiments with mt_rand() seed cracking, though):
> Thanks.  Shortly before that, I released a faster version of my PHP
> mt_rand() seed cracker, now down to 1 minute worst case on CPU:
> $ time ./php_mt_seed 1328851649
> Found 0, trying 637534208 - 671088639, speed 63310249 seeds per second
> seed = 658126103
> Found 1, trying 1207959552 - 1241513983, speed 63343447 seeds per second
> seed = 1234567890
> Found 2, trying 4261412864 - 4294967295, speed 63347894 seeds per second
> Found 2
> real    1m7.798s
> user    9m1.942s
> sys     0m0.008s
> In one minute of real time (on an FX-8120 CPU, using vectorized fused
> multiply-add instructions), it found the original seed, another seed
> that also produces the same mt_rand() output, and it searched the rest
> of the 32-bit seed space (not finding other matches in this case).
> Gifts implemented the same thing in OpenCL:
> His SpeedyOCL branch achieves similar performance (and even 10% better
> than mine in his test of both on a Core i5-2500) on CPUs (with Intel's
> OpenCL SDK) and several times better performance on GPUs.
> On Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 02:31:19PM -0400, George Argyros wrote:
>> FYI, we have also released some code to exploit such vulnerabilities
>> about a month ago in github
>> (  We hope that this
>> framework will allow the easier development of exploits for such
>> vulnerabilities.
>> The main difference with the code mentioned in the previous posts, is
>> that it may not always be possible to obtain the first output from
>> mt_rand() after seeding. For example, many applications only leak
>> truncated mt_rand() outputs in which case we should really compare
>> bits of different mt_rand outputs to test whether we found the correct
>> seed.
> Yes.  Your implementation is far more generic.
> The way I'd approach this is by limiting the set of possible seeds based
> on the first mt_rand() output (perhaps with a min-max range, so _many_
> seeds will be potentially valid - could be millions, yet significantly
> fewer than the full 4 billion set).  This can be accomplished almost as
> quickly as cracking the seed based on an exact mt_rand() output (full
> 31 bits of it, no min-max range) - that is, in one minute on CPU.  Then
> slower, but more generic code may be used to filter out the impossible
> seeds based on further mt_rand() outputs, until there's just one seed
> value left.  The slowness of that second cracker would not matter much
> because it'd only need to search a much smaller seed space.
> A limitation, though, is that the very first mt_rand() output after
> seeding must be among those available, even if in truncated form.  If it
> is not, then more of the state has to be maintained in the initial
> cracking pass, thereby making it slightly slower.  When the first output
> is (at least partially) available, we only need 3 state elements, so
> they're kept in registers nicely.
>> For this reason, in our tool the user defines a "hash" function
>> that expresses any mt_rand dependent output and then we search for a
>> preimage for this hash function.
> That's a generic and curious approach, but I think it's slower than what
> I described above while not being _more_ generic.
>> We also include a python API for this functionalities as well as a
>> sample exploit for mediawiki 1.18.1. Some POCs might indeed help...
>> We will also release the gaussian solver based tool we developed in
>> order to recover the internal state of mt_rand from its (truncated)
>> outputs in the following days.
> Cool!
>> I agree too that education is important. This is something that we
>> came to an agreement with the PHP team (for example that additional
>> information is needed on the mt_rand manual). However, as pointed out
>> nothing has changed yet (the conversations between us and the PHP team
>> took place in March/April).
> Did PHP 5.4's change of session IDs (vs. 5.3's) occur before or after
> your conversations with them?
>> However I think that the specific issue goes beyond education. First
>> of all, We believe that adding simple exploit mitigations such as
>> secure seeding in these functions is something that should definitely
>> happen. Secure seeding is easy to add using randomness from the
>> operating system and furthermore it will incur a negligible
>> performance overhead since it would happen only once in the process
>> lifetime.
> Agreed.
>> For a more concrete solution I think that the existence of secure
>> PRNGs is not enough. Even if mt_rand() was producing secure random
>> numbers we would still be having a lot of vulnerable applications just
>> from the way this function is used.
> Right.
>> Just as PHP devs use
>> session_start() to start a new PHP session there is a need for a
>> generate_token() function that will return a random token and take
>> care of providing the necessary level of security for this token.
> Perhaps, and this is in line with Anthony Ferrara's work on a new
> password hashing API for PHP 5.5 (which will eventually obsolete phpass,
> I guess).  Simpler interfaces that are easier to use correctly than not.
> However, a reason why many PHP app devs use mt_rand() and the like is
> because they want to generate tokens of a certain format, such as to
> meet a standard.  One such use is crypt() salts, which we're helping
> eliminate with phpass and then with Anthony Ferrara's new API.  But I
> guess other uses will remain.  So perhaps that generate_token() function
> would need to accept arguments and return tokens of different target
> formats accordingly.  Maybe it should have a format argument similar to
> that of pack().  Its advantage over separate calls to a PRNG and then to
> pack() on the PRNG's output would be that it'd keep the distribution
> uniform.
> It is curious how it is often overlooked that simple modulo division may
> turn a uniform distribution into non-uniform.  Here's an illustration
> (in case this is news to someone on oss-security):
> $ php -r 'for ($n = $i = 0; $i < 1000000; $i++) { $x = mt_rand(); $n += ($x < 0x40000000); } echo "$n\n";'
> 499567
> $ php -r 'for ($n = $i = 0; $i < 1000000; $i++) { $x = mt_rand(); $n += ($x < 0x40000000); } echo "$n\n";'
> 500558
> $ php -r 'for ($n = $i = 0; $i < 1000000; $i++) { $x = mt_rand() % 500000000; $n += ($x < 250000000); } echo "$n\n";'
> 535117
> $ php -r 'for ($n = $i = 0; $i < 1000000; $i++) { $x = mt_rand() % 500000000; $n += ($x < 250000000); } echo "$n\n";'
> 534124
> First two runs show uniform distribution of mt_rand() outputs themselves
> (assuming the 0 to 0x7fffffff range).  The other two runs show
> non-uniform distribution over the 0 to 500 million minus 1 range,
> after the modulo division by 500 million.  (Values lower than half the
> maximum suddenly became more common than higher values.  It was 50/50
> before the modulo division, but became 53.5/46.5 afterwards.  The reason
> is obvious: the original space is not divisible into a whole number of
> 500 million sub-spaces.)
> This is why having separate functions that return a random number and
> those that process it to the desired format might not be good enough.
> A single function that does both jobs at once (avoiding the above
> problem by using a smarter approach) could work better.
> Alexander

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