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Group administrators:

EAP-pwd Moving Towards a Deployable Standard

17 April 2014 at 4:38pm


What is EAP-pwd?

The Geant project to address shortomings in current RFC

What is EAP-pwd?

EAP-pwd is an EAP method that addresses the problem of password-based authenticated key exchange-- using a possibly weak password for authentication to derive an authenticated and cryptographically strong shared secret.

EAP-pwd is an extremely efficient EAP method which has the pot

The security of EAP-pwd relies upon each side, the peer and server, producing quality secret random numbers.  A poor random number chosen by either side in a single exchange can compromise the shared secret from that exchange and open up the possibility of dictionary attack.

Producing quality random numbers without specialized hardware entails using a cryptographic mixing function (like a strong hash function) to distill entropy from multiple, uncorrelated sources of information and events.

EAP-pwd defines three message exchanges, an Identity exchange, a Commit exchange and a Confirm exchange.  A successful authentication is shown below.

The peer and server use the Identity exchange to discover each other's identities and to agree upon a ciphersuite to use in the subsequent exchanges; in addition, the EAP Server uses the EAP-pwd-ID/Request message to inform the client of any password preprocessing that may be required.  In the Commit exchange the peer and server exchange information to generate a shared key and also to bind each other to a particular guess of the password.  In the Confirm exchange the peer and server prove liveness and knowledge of the password by generating and verifying verification data.

           +--------+                                                   +--------+
           |           |                EAP-pwd-ID/Request     |           |
           |  EAP    |<------------------------------------     |  EAP    |
           |  peer   |                                                    | server |
           |           | EAP-pwd-ID/Response                    |           |
           |           |------------------------------------>     |           |
           |           |                                                    |           |
           |           |            EAP-pwd-Commit/Request |           |
           |           |<------------------------------------     |           |
           |           |                                                    |           |
           |           | EAP-pwd-Commit/Response            |           |
           |           |------------------------------------>     |           |
           |           |                                                    |           |
           |           |           EAP-pwd-Confirm/Request  |            |
           |           |<------------------------------------     |           |
           |           |                                                    |           |
           |           | EAP-pwd-Confirm/Response            |           |
           |           |------------------------------------>     |           |
           |           |                                                    |           |
           |           |        EAP-Success                         |           |
           |           |<------------------------------------     |           |
           +--------+                                                    +--------+

                  Figure: A Successful EAP-pwd Exchange

 The components of the EAP-pwd-* messages are as follows:

       Ciphersuite, Token, Password Processing Method, Server_ID

       Ciphersuite, Token, Password Processing Method, Peer_ID

       Scalar_S, Element_S

       Scalar_P, Element_P



For the full RFC see:

Geant Project to Address Shortcomings

JRA3-T1's evaluation of EAP-pwd for user authentication concluded that it contained many positive properties, but also a few drawbacks.

One of those drawbacks was that the storage of the password on the IdP side (Home organisation) had to be either one of cleartext or NT-Hash (both of which being somewhat lame), and that support for more hashes and/or salting would need a new RFC. Stefan Winter of RESTENA reports that we're on our way to issue that new RFC. See

You'll notice that the following storage backends would be supported when this draft becomes an RFC:

  • a random salt with SHA-1
  • a random salt with SHA-256
  • a random salt with SHA-512

(length of the salt is not infinite, but some three-digit number)