# 1. Introduction

 Many of the fundamental issues related to IT security involve passwords. In this problem you will learn one way in which a password is "cracked" that involves the use of the so-called brute-force approach. You will implement a brute-force password cracking program and explore how it works. A brute-force approach for cracking passwords is trying all possible passwords. On a luggage lock (see image) with three dials, each with 10 digits, the brute-force approach is to try all combinations. How many combinations are there? How long would a brute-force approach take (on average)? From media.uxcell.com on May 19 2019 09:28:42.

# 2. Preparation

Note: I have changed the instructions slightly from the one you used in class. As before each student will get a different answer, but now the answer will be the same on all computers the student uses.

• Start MATLAB
• On the command line (you only need to do this once every time you start MATLAB), enter
urlwrite('http://cds130.org/images/isbobspassword.m','isbobspassword.m');


correctguess = isbobspassword(96,'FunnyName')


After entering the second command, you should see

correctguess =

0


# 3. Problem Overview

In the preparation step, you downloaded a file. The program in the file isbobspassword is called a function and it performs a simple task: It tells you if you guessed one of the passwords that Bob uses.

You may ask the function if the letter a is one of the passwords by first looking up the ASCII code for this letter (97) and then entering

correctguess = isbobspassword([97])


If your guess is correct, then the variable correctguess will be assigned the value of 1 and you will see

correctguess =

1


If your guess was incorrect, then correctguess will be assigned the value of 0 and you will see

correctguess =

0


Suppose you want to determine if one of Bob's passwords is ab. The ASCII code for b is 98, so you would enter

correctguess = isbobspassword([97,98])


and, as was the case for the single-letter guess, if your guess was correct you will see

correctguess =

1


# 4. Questions

Background

• Bob has six passwords that he uses for various purposes.
• All passwords are lower case letters.
• One password is one letter, one password is two letters, one password is three letters, etc.
• The function isbobspassword will return a 1 if you guessed any of the passwords correctly.

## 4.1. Clarification on what to post

• Post your answer to the question of "If I collected the answer to the previous question [how many guesses to get the 1-letter password] from each student, what would be the average (assume that the students don't talk to each other)?
• Post your program for determining the four-letter password (you don't need to post code for all passwords).
• Post a filled-in table

## 4.2. Hint

The program was discussed in class (except for the tic/toc part). This program checks all two-letter passwords. You must replace "Weigel" with your wiki username!.

Also noted in class: There may not be enough time to run the program for the six-letter password before the due date. However, it is possible to figure out the six-letter password by looking for patterns in the other passwords.

urlwrite('http://cds130.org/images/isbobspassword.m','isbobspassword.m');
tic;
counter = 0;
for i = [97:122]
for j = [97:122]
counter = counter + 1;
i
j
counter
toc
end
end
end


## 4.3. Single-letter

Use any of the programming techniques covered previously in this course to figure out ("crack") Bob's one-letter password.

2. How many tries did it take you to guess it?
3. If I collected the answer to the previous question from each student, what would be the average (assume that the students don't talk to each other This parenthetical note is not needed; it was written when the all students would find the same one-letter password.)?

## 4.5. Three-letter +

Answer the same questions as above except for three-letter, four-letter, and five-letter, and six-letter passwords. You only need to post your program for the four-letter password only.

## 4.6. Counting Tries

If you used a for loop in the previous problem, modify the program so that it tells you how many tries were required before the correct password was guessed. If you guess the password without a for loop, you may skip this problem.

## 4.7. Number of tries

Fill in the following table. To place in your wiki, select "view source" or "edit" to reveal the table syntax; copy the table onto your page and replace the question marks with numbers. In the last column, put a rough estimate of time in seconds.

If you were not able to crack a password before the homework is due, put an estimate of how long you think it would take to crack (along with the logic behind your estimate).

1  ?  ?  ?
2  ?  ?  ?
3  ?  ?  ?
4  ?  ?  ?
5  ?  ?  ?
6  ?  ?  ?

# 5. Solution

In the programs below, you will see lines that start with 1., 2.<code>, etc. to indicate lines that were added to the previous program. 

If you want to follow along in this solution, you must first enter the command: 

 urlwrite('http://cds130.org/images/isbobspassword.m','isbobspassword.m'); 

This command downloads a file containing the function <code>isbobspassword. In principle, you can figure out how the passwords are generated by reading this program, but this is not the intended approach for this problem.

Most students initially tried repeatedly entering the command

>> isbobspasssword([97],'Weigel')
0


>> isbobspasssword([98],'Weigel')

ans =
0


until they were successful and saw

>> isbobspasssword([108],'Weigel')
ans =
1


Many students tried to get the two-letter password using the same approach, that is by repeatedly entering commands as in

>> isbobspasssword([97,97],'Weigel')
>> isbobspasssword([97,98],'Weigel')
>> isbobspasssword([97,99],'Weigel')
>> isbobspasssword([97,100],'Weigel')


Ideally, you would realize that you were repeating a command over and over, and this is related to iteration.

To see how this is related to iteration, try the following approach for guessing the 1-letter password:

i = 97;
i = 98;
i = 99;
i = 100;


etc. Recall the pattern for commands that can be re-written as a for loop. In the above, the lines with isbobspassword([i],'Weigel') is the DO SOMETHING, so the above can be re-written as

for i = [97:122]
end


Now, how would you get the two-letter password? One option is to use

j = 97;
for i = [97:122]
end
j = 98;
for i = [97:122]
end
j = 99;
for i = [97:122]
end


etc. This also fits the pattern of something that can be re-written short-hand as a for loop. In this case, the DO SOMETHING is three lines as indicated below.

   for j = [97:122]
1.    for i = [97:122]
3.    end
end


When this program is run, you will see

 ans =
0


printed 26*26 - 1 times with a single

ans =
1


somewhere in between, indicating that one of the passwords was correct.

You could figure out how many tries before ans=1 was displayed to determine how many guesses were required. There is an easier way. First, suppress the output by placing a semi-colon after the password check line (the line containing isbobspassword) and assign the output of isbobspassword to a variable, as in

   for j = [97:122]
for i = [97:122]
end
end


Now, for every iteration, correct_password will be assigned a value of 0 or 1. With the above modification nothing will appear on the screen when the program is run because of the semi-colon. To have something appear on the screen when correct_password is 1, add an if statement along with i and j to so that their values are displayed if correct_password is equal to 1:

for j = [97:122]
for i = [97:122]
2.      i
3.      j
4.    end
end
end


When the above is run, you will only see

i =
114
j =
99


These are the values of i and j when correct_password was 1. To verify that this is indeed a correct password, enter the following on the command line

isbobspassword([114,99],'Weigel')


you should see

ans =
0


The next step is to modify the program so that when correct_password is 1, then the number of tries is displayed. (Alternatively, you can figure this out manually given the value of i and j.) To display the number of tries it took to get a correct guess, add a variable that keeps track of the number of times isbobspassword was executed. This can be done by incrementing a variable (which I have chosen to have the name counter, but I could have named it, for example, a or b) right after every password try.

1. counter = 0;
for j = [97:122]
for i = [97:122]
2.    counter = counter + 1;
3.      counter
i
j
end
end
end


The final step is to add a timer that tells us how much time elapsed between the start of the program and the correct guess (Alternatively, you could estimate this by using a stopwatch). This is done using the tic and toc functions as shown on lines 1 and 2.

1. tic;
counter = 0;
for j = [97:122]
for i = [97:122]
counter = counter + 1;
2.     toc
counter
i
j
end
end
end


For most students, the 5-letter password program took about 30 minutes. (If you ever want to have MATLAB stop executing a long-running program, enter CTRL-C.) The 6-letter password would take 30 minutes to 13 hours. But there is a pattern in the passwords that allows this time to be reduced. Consider the passwords for the user named 'Weigel'. They were (time in seconds)

Time: 0.003116 Password: 108
Time: 0.159879 Password: 112 120 98
Time: 2.455693 Password: 114 122 100  98
Time: 62.63367 Password: 116  98 102 100 98


The pattern is that the numbers in each column increment by two (almost) every time. The top password in the first column is 108, the next is 110, the next 112, etc. The top password in the second column is 118, followed by 120 (corresponding to the letter 'x'), 122 (corresponding to the letter 'z'). Because there are no more letters after 'z', the numbers must start over at 97 (corresponding to the letter 'a'). Adding 1 to 122 gives 97, adding 2 to 122 give 98.

Because there is a pattern, you don't need to try all possible six-letter passwords. Instead, you can use the pattern to guess the first 5 letters and then iterate over the last unknown letter:

for m = [97:122]
m
end
end


Advanced topics. The following discussion covers topics that are not expected to be understood by all students.

If you think about how this program works, you may realized that it continues guessing even after a correct guess was found. There are a number of ways to stop the guessing when a correct answer is found. Here is an example that uses a while loop:

  correct_password = 0;
i = 97;
i = i+1;
end


A more advanced approach is to place the for loops in a function. Create a file named guess2.m and enter function [i,j] = guess2()

for j = [97:122]
for i = [97:122]
return;
end
end
end


If you enter

>> [i,j] = guess2()


the program in the file will be executed. The return statement is a special statement that can be used inside of a function. It means "stop executing the commands in this function". For more on functions and the return statement, see functions.

Previously, the answers given required one for loop for the 1-letter password, two for loops to get the two-letter password, etc. The result is a very long program. There is a way to check all passwords with a single loop. Here it is without explanation:

function [p,t,i] = brute(n,name)
% Call using [p,t,n] = brute()

if (nargin == 0)
name = 'Weigel';
for i = 1:6
[p,t,tries] = brute(i,name);
t(i) = t;
tries(i) = tries;
fprintf('Tries: %7d Time (sec): %f ',tries(i),t(i));
fprintf('Pass: ');
fprintf('%d ',p(:));
fprintf('\n');
end
return;
end

tic;
correct = 0;
sz = repmat(26,1,n);
for i = 1:26^n
[p(1),p(2),p(3),p(4),p(5),p(6)] = ind2sub(sz,i);
if (correct == 1)
break
end
end
t = toc;
tries = i;
p = 96+p(1:n);


Copy the above into a file named brute.m and then enter brute() on the command line. You should see (times will vary): >> brute() Tries: 12 Time (sec): 0.005374 Pass: 108 Tries: 560 Time (sec): 0.069942 Pass: 110 118 Tries: 1290 Time (sec): 0.157634 Pass: 112 120 98 Tries: 20272 Time (sec): 2.469198 Pass: 114 122 100 98 Tries: 513130 Time (sec): 62.78672 Pass: 116 98 102 100 98 Can you modify the above program so that it uses the pattern to reduce the number of guesses?

The commands tic, toc, and break may be useful for this assignment. Use of these functions is not required or necessary to solve the problem.

These commands are placed here because at some point a student will ask "Is there a way to stop a for loop when a password is found?" and "Is there a way to measure the time for a for loop to execute other than using a stopwatch?.