08 Mar 2013, 00:00

Password Cracking on Amazon EC2



In one of my courses at McMaster University - Computer Networks and Security - the professor gave a challenge in class. The first person to crack a crypt() hash would get a 3% bonus on their final grade, and the first person to crack a md5crypt()-based hash would get a 7% bonus on their final grade. I cracked the crypt() password while the class was still going, by using John the Ripper and a decent wordlist that I had lying around on this server. The md5crypt() one would be much harder to do on a cheap VPS, though, and my MacBook Air is nowhere near powerful enough to be of use. So, after I got home, I decided that I was going to try and use Amazon EC2 to gain those extra percent. Specifically, Amazon provides a GPU Instance, which comes with two NVIDIA Tesla M2050 GPUs attached. After a bit of work, I managed to get oclHashcat-plus, one of the world’s fastest GPU-based crackers, working on it. It wasn’t trivial, though, so here’s how I did it.

Installing CUDA

First, you need to start the instance. Go to the EC2 management console, and start the instance, using AMI ami-f4039f9d. This is the official Ubuntu for Cluster Computing 11.10. Note that the quickstart page provides 12.04 or 12.10, both of which present problems (no official NVIDIA driver, newer version of GCC, etc.).

EDIT: I’ve noticed that some people have trouble launching this AMI. The short way is to click this link. The longer, but perhaps more useful way is as follows:

  1. Go to the Ubuntu Amazon EC2 AMI Locator
  2. Filter by “oneiric” under the “Name” column, and “hvm” under the “Instance Type” column.
  3. Pick the region you want to launch the instance in, and click the AMI ID, which should bring up the EC2 Console, letting you launch the given instance.
  4. Launch the AMI on the “Cluster GPU” instance (cg1.4xlarge).

Once the instance is started, SSH into it, and install the basics:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gcc g++ build-essential linux-headers-`uname -r`

Now, we need to install GLUT:

sudo apt-get install freeglut3 freeglut3-dev

Next, the CUDA toolkit for this version of Linux. You should install everything (yes, including the samples):

wget http://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/cuda/5_0/rel-update-1/installers/cuda_5.0.35_linux_64_ubuntu11.10-1.run
chmod a+x cuda_5.0.35_linux_64_ubuntu11.10-1.run
sudo sh ./cuda_5.0.35_linux_64_ubuntu11.10-1.run --verbose

If there are any problems, check them out on Google - chances are, someone else has run into this already. Note that you need version 4.6 of GCC - the install checks for the version, and 4.7 will cause it to fail (this is especially true if you’re using 12.04 or 12.10). Also, you have to build the kernel module with the same version of GCC as the kernel was compiled with.

Anyway, once the toolkit is compiled, we need to set up the environment so that we can run CUDA programs. Open /etc/environment in your favorite editor, and append /usr/local/bin/cuda to the PATH variable. Next, create /etc/ld.so.conf.d/cuda.conf in your editor, add the following 2 lines, and save it:


Run sudo ldconfig to update things, and the environment should be all set up. You can verify this by running the deviceQuery sample that comes with CUDA (you did install it above, right?):

cd /usr/local/cuda/samples/1_Utilities/deviceQuery
sudo make
sudo ./deviceQuery

This should show you the two NVIDIA M2050 GPUs that are attached. If you don’t see them, or you have an error, you need to fix things before continuing.

Installing oclHashcat-plus

Ok, once you reached this point, you should have a working CUDA install. Now that you’ve got this, you can grab oclHashcat-plus:

sudo apt-get install p7zip-full
wget http://hashcat.net/files/oclHashcat-plus-0.13.7z
7za x oclHashcat-plus-0.13.7z
cd oclHashcat-plus-0.13

Note that, despite the fact the project is called “oclHashcat”, we’re actually going to be using the “cudaHashcat” command. You can verify everything extracted correctly by trying to crack a simple hash. Here’s the full example and output from my tests:

ubuntu@ip-10-16-20-96:~/hashcat/oclHashcat-plus-0.13$ echo -n AndrewD | md5sum > hashes.test
ubuntu@ip-10-16-20-96:~/hashcat/oclHashcat-plus-0.13$ sudo ./cudaHashcat-plus64.bin --force --hash-type=0 -1 ?l?u -a 3 hashes.test ?1?1?1?1?1?1?1
cudaHashcat-plus v0.13 by atom starting…

Hashes: 1 total, 1 unique salts, 1 unique digests
Bitmaps: 8 bits, 256 entries, 0x000000ff mask, 1024 bytes
Workload: 256 loops, 80 accel
Watchdog: Temperature abort trigger set to 90c
Watchdog: Temperature retain trigger set to 80c
Device #1: Tesla M2050, 2687MB, 1147Mhz, 14MCU
Device #2: Tesla M2050, 2687MB, 1147Mhz, 14MCU
Device #1: Kernel ./kernels/4318/m0000_a3.sm_20.ptx
Device #2: Kernel ./kernels/4318/m0000_a3.sm_20.ptx

[s]tatus [p]ause [r]esume [b]ypass [q]uit =>


Session.Name...: cudaHashcat-plus
Status.........: Cracked
Input.Mode.....: Mask (?1?1?1?1?1?1?1)
Hash.Target....: e974e36b5b0f062d86020252edd8ad51
Hash.Type......: MD5
Time.Started...: Fri Mar 8 17:47:09 2013 (4 mins, 39 secs)
Speed.GPU.#1...: 1159.8M/s
Speed.GPU.#2...: 1161.0M/s
Speed.GPU.# ...: 2320.9M/s
Recovered......: 1/1 (100.00%) Digests, 1/1 (100.00%) Salts
Progress.......: 645335613440/1028071702528 (62.77%)
Rejected.......: 0/645335613440 (0.00%)
HWMon.GPU.#1...: 0% Util, -1c Temp, -1% Fan
HWMon.GPU.#2...: 7% Util, -1c Temp, -1% Fan

Started: Fri Mar 8 17:47:09 2013
Stopped: Fri Mar 8 17:51:55 2013

If you can do the same, then things are working perfectly.

Cracking Tips

In addition to brute-force, I’d recommend grabbing a wordlist to use. This is much faster than running through the entire keyspace, and can often make the difference between cracking and not cracking a hash. If you want to do this, grab rtorrent, which is a fast, console-based torrent client, and a wordlist. I’ve heard good things about this wordlist, for example. Either way, here’s what I did:

cd /mnt
sudo mkdir wordlist
sudo chown ubuntu:ubuntu wordlist
cd wordlist

Then, inside rtorrent, press Backspace, paste a magnet link, hit Enter, and wait for the torrent to download (and then Ctrl-Q to exit). If the torrent contains a RAR file, here’s a couple of quick steps on how to extract it:

  1. Open /etc/apt/sources.list in your favorite editor.
  2. Add “multiverse” to the end of any lines that start with “deb” and end with “universe”. There should be 2 of these.
  3. sudo apt-get update
  4. sudo apt-get install unrar
  5. unrar x YOUR_RAR_FILE.rar

Once you have a wordlist, you can use it with oclHashcat like so:

./cudaHashcat-plus64.bin --attack-mode=0 --hash-type=0 [hashes file] /mnt/wordlist/wordlist.txt

And finally, one small tip: start any cracking attempts in a screen or tmux session, so if your SSH connection drops, you can reconnect. This is speaking from experience!


That’s all there is to it! Performance on the Cluster GPU instance is pretty decent (you can see above, it can perform about 2320.9 million MD5 hashes per second), and, once set up, easy to use. Sadly, after running two giant wordlists against the md5crypt() hash that I was testing, I didn’t have any luck. And since the instances are a bit pricy for a student to keep running, I decided to shut it down and earn those 7% the hard way. Back to studying! Though, if anyone feels like helping me earn those bonus marks, the hash can be found below.


An additional note: while convenient, this isn’t the world’s most efficient way to do hash cracking. If you have the money, CloudCracker is a service I’ve heard good things about - though it doesn’t support all the hash types that oclHashcat does. Also, physical hardware will outperform EC2 pretty much all the time, so if you really need the extra speed, it would be worth investing in a few dedicated servers. A good example of something like this can be found here.