SHA password hashes

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Notes: please use the first argument of the template to provide more detailed indications. (Discuss in Talk:SHA password hashes#)

Why Should You Use SHA-2?

In commons Linux distribution, login passwords are encrypted and stored in the file /etc/shadow. The algorithm used for that purpose is MD5 which is usually know to have some weaknesses due to collision issues. This means someone gaining access to this password file could use these flaws to reverse back the MD5 encryption and thus find out the clear passwords. For that reason and because the basic Arch Linux installation uses MD5, it is advised to use a more robust encryption algorythm such as SHA.

In the below examples, sha512 may be used instead of sha256, for even stronger cryptography. SHA2

Editing the Necessary Files

Editing /etc/pam.d/passwd

You must be root to edit this file. What you will probably see is something like this:

#%PAM-1.0
#password	required	pam_cracklib.so difok=2 minlen=8 dcredit=2 ocredit=2 retry=3
#password	required	pam_unix.so md5 shadow use_authtok
password	required	pam_unix.so md5 shadow nullok

A more detailed explanation of those options is available in the pam man pages, but what we are interested in is the option md5.

Replace md5 to sha256, or sha512 (recommended by the NSA for RHEL5).

After doing so, the file should look like this:

#%PAM-1.0
#password	required	pam_cracklib.so difok=2 minlen=8 dcredit=2 ocredit=2 retry=3
#password	required	pam_unix.so md5 shadow use_authtok
password	required	pam_unix.so sha512 shadow nullok

Editing /etc/default/passwd

You will also need root access to edit this file. It most likely looks like this:

# This file contains some information for
# the passwd (1) command and other tools 
# creating or modifying passwords.

# Define default crypt hash
# CRYPT={des,md5,blowfish}
CRYPT=des

# Use another crypt hash for group passwowrds.
# This is used by gpasswd, fallback is the CRYPT entry.
# GROUP_CRYPT=des


# We can override the default for a special service
# by appending the service name (FILES, YP, NISPLUS, LDAP)

# for local files, use a more secure hash. We
# don't need to be portable here:
CRYPT_FILES=blowfish
# sometimes we need to specify special options for
# a hash (variable is prepended by the name of the
# crypt hash).
BLOWFISH_CRYPT_FILES=5

# For NIS, we should always use DES:
CRYPT_YP=des

Once again, the change is very simple. Change

CRYPT=des

to

CRYPT=sha256

or whatever SHA-2 encryption you are using.

Final Steps

Even though you have changed the encryption, your passwords are not automatically rehashed!

To fix this, you must reset all user passwords so that they can be rehashed.

As root, the command

# passwd <username>

where <username> is the name of the user whose password you are changing, will allow you to do this. Simply re-enter their current password, and it will be rehashed to the more secure SHA-2 version!

To verify that your passwords have been rehashed, check the /etc/shadow file as root. Passwords hashed with sha256 should begin with a $5 (passwords hashed with sha512 will begin with "$6").