[UPDATE: Added a new section at the end of the post]
[UPDATE 2: Added a section RE: StorageDecorator]
tl;dr: Install Password Validator and all of your password troubles will be solved. All of them. It’ll even upgrade your old hashes transparently. Sup?
Hashing Done Wrong
We all know to encrypt passwords for highest level of security. Unfortunately, too many do it like this:
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While there was never any excuse for getting it that wrong, there’s now no excuse for getting it wrong at all. Developers, meet the new(-ish) PHP password hashing functions (and the userland implementation password-compat).
Hashing Done Right
First, alter the password column in your user database to
BCRYPT passwords are 60 characters in length, but when PHP upgrades
the default hash (which will happen at some point), you want to be ready.
Really, just do it.
When it’s time to create a new user password, throw the plain text password
The next time a user logs in, use a little
If the password is valid, check to see if it needs to be rehashed with
If the password needs to be rehashed, run it through
and persist the result.
Trivial, right? Right!
Since implementing the code above might take as many as two or three hours out of your day, I went ahead and implemented it for you. Behold, Password Validator!
The Password Validator library validates
passwords, rehashes passwords as necessary, and can upgrade legacy
passwords (if configured to do so).
The really big deal here is the ease of upgrading from your current legacy hashes to the new, more secure, PHP generated hashes. More on that later.
If you’re already using
password_hash generated passwords in your
application, you need do nothing more than add the validator in your
authentication script. The validator uses
password_verify to test
the validity of the provided password hash.
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If your application requires options other than the
you can set both the
cost options with
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PasswordValidator uses a default cost of
10. If your
existing hash implementation requires a different cost, make sure to specify it
PasswordValidator::setOptions(). If you do not do so, all of your
passwords will be rehashed using a cost of
Each valid password is tested using
password_needs_rehash. If a rehash
is necessary, the valid password is rehashed using
password_hash with the
provided options. The result code
Result::SUCCESS_PASSWORD_REHASHED will be
Result::getCode() and the rehashed password is available via
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IMPORTANT: If the password has been rehashed, it’s critical that you persist the updated password hash. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?
Upgrading Legacy Passwords
You can use the
PasswordValidator whether or not you’re currently using
password_hash generated passwords. The validator will upgrade your current
legacy hashes to the new
password_hash generated hashes. All you need to
do is provide a validator callback for your password hashing scheme and then
decorate the validator with the
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UpgradeDecorator will validate a user’s current password using the
callback. If the user’s password is valid, it will be hashed with
password_hash and returned in the
Result object, as above.
If the callback determines the password is invalid, the password will be passed
along to the
PasswordValidator in case it’s already been upgraded.
Persisting Rehashed Passwords
Whenever a validation attempt returns
important to persist the updated password hash.
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While you can always perform the test and then update your user database manually, if you choose to use the Storage Decorator all rehashed passwords will be automatically persisted.
The Storage Decorator takes two constructor arguments: An instance of
PasswordValidatorInterface and an instance of the
StorageInterface includes a single method,
updatePassword(). A class
honoring the interface might look like this:
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UserDao in hand, you’re ready to decorate a
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IMPORTANT: You must pass the optional third argument (
isValid() when calling
StorageDecorator::isValid(). If you do not do so,
StorageDecorator will throw an
Each validation attempt returns a
Result object. The object provides some
introspection into the status of the validation process.
trueif the attempt was successful
Result::getCode()will return one of three possible
Result::SUCCESSif the validation attempt was successful
Result::SUCCESS_PASSWORD_REHASHEDif the attempt was successful and the password was rehashed
Result::FAILURE_PASSWORD_INVALIDif the attempt was unsuccessful
Result::getPassword()will return the rehashed password, but only if the password was rehashed
Database Schema Changes
As mentioned above, because this library uses the
it’s important your password field be
VARCHAR(255) to account for future
updates to the default password hashing algorithm.
There are two helper scripts available, both related to the password hash
functions (these functions are only available after running
If you’re not already running PHP 5.5+, you should run
ensure your version of PHP is capable of using password-compat, the userland
implementation of the PHP password hash functions. Run
from the root of your project. The result of the script is pass/fail.
cost used by
password_hash is 10. This may or may not be
appropriate for your production hardware, and it’s entirely likely you can use
a higher cost than the default.
cost-check is based on the finding a good
cost example in the PHP documentation. Simply run
./vendor/bin/cost-check from the command line and an appropriate cost will be returned.
NOTE: The default time target is 0.2 seconds. You may choose a higher or lower
target by passing a float argument to
cost-check, like so:
The addition of native password hashing functions is the most important security update to PHP since, well, I don’t know when. There’s no excuse for not implementing them in your applications, and the Password Validator library makes it trivial. That’s especially true when it comes to updating your legacy password hashes, which many of us need to do. Even if you only use the Password Validator as a roadmap for your own implementation, I strongly recommend upgrading ASAP.
I was remiss to not add this bit of kudos when I originally published this post. Better late than never.
Credit for the new password hashing functions goes to Anthony Ferrara. He submitted the original RFC and created the password-compat library. The PHP community owes Anthony a debt of gratitude for making password hash security so ridiculously simple. Seriously, if I can grok it, you know it’s idiot proof :-)