# Transforming a key into a seed with the most entropy

I'm making a very simple encrypter in C# which is basically a Stream cipher. The user enters a key(password), converted to a seed for a pseudo-random generator, and the pseudo-random generator generates the numbers used to shift the characters. The decrypt process goes the same, but then in inverse.

Here's the pseudo-code I use:

1. Get the characters
2. Initialize a seed with the value 0
3. Loop through each character, adding the characters' value to the seed
4. Return the seed


But that has a problem. What if I have a (poor) password, like Hello. The encrypted output would be the same if I used eHlol or loeHl. You can write this password in 5! = 120 ways. That's not good!

So I came up with a solution:

1. Get the characters
2. Initialize a seed with the value 0
3. Loop through each character, adding the characters' value times it's position to the seed
4. Return the seed


But that's not good either. With a large password, you would get huge skips in numbers if you modify the last number. That's bad, because you want the most permutations possible for a random number generator.

Example:

Last character(12) has a value of 10
10 * 12 = 120
Then you change it to 11
11 * 12 = 132
^ gap of 12


Then I changed step 4 into this:

4. Return the seed divided by the length of the key


That's not a good option either, because with large passwords it wouldn't really matter what the value was of the first character in order to make a difference.

Example:

Password size: 10
1/10 = 0
8/10 = 0


So what's a good method for user-based passwords?

• If you use a pseudorandom generator to generate the keystream, it's not a one-time pad. Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 15:07
• @yyyyyyy I know, if you have a random seed, that is used for a PRNG, it's sort of time pad. That's why I said based, but I should rename it to inspired. Thanks. Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 15:10
• @joppiesaus: Just rename it to what it is: A stream cipher. ;)
– Nova
Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 15:15
• To turn a password into a key, you need to perform key stretching using a Password-Based Key Derivation Function. Examples (from passable to good) are PBKDF2, BCrypt, and Scrypt. Anything lesser (like a hash) will be terribly vulnerable to password guessing. $\;$ (update) Turns out Giles just said it!
– fgrieu
Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 15:43

A key stretching function is a particular kind of key derivation function that adds an element of slowness. This is necessary when the input consists of low-entropy data such as a password. The legitimate user only has to calculate the result once, but an attacker who attempts to guess the password has to make the calculation once per guess, so the slowness hurts the attacker more than the legitimate user. Note that the function must be designed so that each attempt requires a complete new calculation: there is no work that can be factored between computing f(Hello) and f(Hellp).