Dan Goodin For the first time, the freely available password cracker ocl-Hashcat-plus is able to tackle passcodes with as many as 55 characters. It’s an improvement that comes as more and more people are relying on long passcodes and phrases to protect their website accounts and other online assets. Until now, ocl-Hashcat-plus, the Hashcat version that can use dozens of graphics cards to simultaneously crack huge numbers of cryptographic hashes, has limited guesses to 15 or fewer characters. (oclHashcat-lite and Hashcat have supported longer passwords, but these programs frequently take much longer to work.) Released over the weekend, ocl-Hashcat-plus version 0.15 can generally accommodate passwords with lengths of 55 characters. Depending on the hash that’s being targeted and the types of cracking techniques being used, the maximum can grow as high as 64 characters or as low as 24.

The long sought-after improvement targets one of the last remaining defenses people employ to make their passwords resistant to cracking. “This was by far one of the most requested features,” Jens Steube, the lead Hashcat developer who also goes by the handle Atom, wrote in the release notes for the new version. “We resisted adding this ‘feature’ as it would force us to remove several optimizations, resulting in a decrease in performance for most algorithms.

The actual performance loss depends on several factors (GPU, attack mode, etc.), but typically averages around 15 percent.”     

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