Secure unsalted or fixed salt symmetric encryption?

Jeffrey Goldberg jeffrey at
Tue May 26 14:31:30 UTC 2009

On May 25, 2009, at 2:00 PM, Roland Smith wrote:

> You could use the -S option and specify a constant salt. It might make
> the encrypted materials easier to break, though. You can generate a
> random salt with openssl as well:

> Or you can use the -nosalt option. But as explained in
> [], using a random salt by
> default is a design decision because: "Without the -salt option it is
> possible to perform efficient dictionary attacks on the password".  
> That
> doesn't sound good, does it?

This is being used for file encryption, not password encryption.  So a  
dictionary attack isn't all that likely unless the encrypted files are  
of a specific nature (known template which remains constant while only  
small parts of the file vary).

Note that without salt (or with constant salt) an attacker would know  
which files are identical both within a snapshot or across them.  But  
this is pretty much what the OP wants the back-up system to know, so I  
guess that would be okay.

> If you are using a (e.g. USB connected) disk as backup, use geli(8)  
> to encrypt
> the whole disk instead of encrypting each file separately.

The OP may be doing something like rsync over an insecure network.   
But in the absence of details about the OPs situation it's hard to  
make solid recommendations.  As you suggest, encrypting the resulting  
back-up filesystem is probably the the best option if the back-up  
filesystem is exacted to be the target of attack.



Jeffrey Goldberg              

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