1
$\begingroup$

I'm implementing an application that from a password has to derive two keys, one for authentication with the server, one for encryption. I'm using Java, with JCA and Bouncy Castle.

So far, to generate a key from the password I was using PBKDF2, like this:

SecretKeyFactory secretKeyFactory = SecretKeyFactory.getInstance("PBKDF2WithHmacSHA512", BC);
PBEKeySpec keySpec = new PBEKeySpec(password.toCharArray(), salt, iterations, keyLength);
SecretKey passwordKey = secretKeyFactory.generateSecret(keySpec);

but in the two examples I found of HKDF:

they start with HmacSHA256, not PBKDF2. Why is that? What are the pros and cons of these two algorithms in this case?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Note that, in order to prevent brute force attacks, it's better to use a password hash function such as Argon2, bcrypt or scrypt. $\endgroup$ – Conrado Aug 31 '17 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ HKDF is by definition based in HMAC (that's the H in HKDF, I believe). PBKDF is suitable for deriving keys from passphrases, which usually have lower entropy and may be brute-forced. If your input is the typical password from users, go for PBKDF (which will add resilience against brute force attacks as @ConradoPLG mentioned). Use HKDF if you already have a good source of entropy that could not be attacked by brute force (like Diffie Hellman shared secrets). See nice Maarten response which combines the two: PBKDF2 to add brute-force resilience while using HKDF to derive two strong keys. $\endgroup$ – jjmontes Aug 31 '17 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ Also, recommended reading: crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/40971/… and crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/20960/… $\endgroup$ – jjmontes Aug 31 '17 at 17:54
4
$\begingroup$

I don't think you get those "examples": they implement HKDF. The full name of HKDF is HMAC-based Extract-and-Expand Key Derivation Function. They do not use PBKDF2 because they don't implement a specific use case, they implement the algorithm.

So it is perfectly fine to use:

master = PBKDF2(SHA-256, iterations, salt, password, 32)
authKey = HKDF(SHA-256, master, "authKey", 32)
encKey = HKDF(SHA-256, master, "encKey", 32)

This is pseudo code where the configuration options such as the hash function and the output size are also present in the parameters.

Note that although the SHA-256 is specified as configuration option, both PBKDF2 and HKDF will use HMAC-SHA-256 underneath (but HMAC has only one configuration option: the hash function to use, so this is equivalent).

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.