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An Overview Of Salt and Salting In Cybersecurity

By Tom Seest

What Is Salt In Cybersecurity?

Salts are random character strings used in cryptographic hash functions. They typically get added to passwords before hashing them.
Salted passwords make it nearly impossible for hackers to use dictionary or rainbow table attacks on the hashed value to extract the original plaintext.
This makes it more difficult for malicious actors to crack passwords on a mass scale while also decreasing the time needed to execute brute-force attacks against a password.

This photo was taken by Yan Krukau and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/shallow-focus-photo-of-a-cute-child-playing-with-salt-8435769/.

What Is a Salt?

Most people think of salt is an ionic compound composed of two cations and anions connected by an ionic bond. It occurs naturally as a mineral, the most popular being table salt – sodium chloride (NaCl).
Salts can produce either an acidic or basic solution when dissolved in water. Some salts are neutral as well. Zwitterions, on the other hand, contain both anionic and cationic centers within one molecule.
When the cation and anion of salt are combined, they form either double salts or complex salts. A double salt contains more than one cation or anion within the same molecule, while complex salts have central metal atoms surrounded by coordination bonds to ligands – such as potassium alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) or mercury iodide.
Salts come in a variety of forms, from crystallized to liquid. Ammonium chloride or lye are examples of liquid salts; lead diacetate and potassium bitartrate are examples of salts that are soluble in water or other solvents.
Salts are distinguished by color, odor, solubility, conductivity, and melting point. Table salt, for instance, has a dark brown hue with an irresistibly sweet and salty taste.
Salts differ in composition, but most have a neutral pH when dissolved in water. Some are odorless, while others possess an aroma.
In cybersecurity, salt is used to add random data before a password is hashed. This process helps protect passwords against dictionary attacks and other vulnerabilities.
Cryptographically secure pseudo-random password generators can be utilized to generate a random salt value for each user, making each password unique and protecting it from being cracked across multiple sites.
Password hashes can be added to the front or behind a password in order to make it more difficult to crack and protect against hash table attacks. It does not alter the actual password itself but alters its hash so that it becomes harder to decipher.
The length of salt is another critical consideration. Shorter salts are easier to break, while longer ones present greater resistance against attacks. Therefore, it is recommended that you use at least 32 bytes of your salt.

This photo was taken by Yan Krukau and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-boy-playing-on-the-floor-8435770/.

Why Is Salting Important In Cybersecurity?

Salting is a cybersecurity technique used to protect passwords. It adds an additional 32 or more characters to a password before it’s hashed (similar to adding salt to the hash browns recipe).
Salting also increases the complexity of a password, making it harder for attackers to decrypt it. It helps thwart hash table attacks and slows down brute force or dictionary attempts.
When hashing your password, two important considerations: first, use a cryptographically secure pseudo-random number generator, and second, generate a unique salt for every password. For extra security, add a secret key to the hash so only you can validate its validity.
Furthermore, you should ensure your private key is stored separately on an external system. Doing this prevents hackers from having access to the internal system and using it to attack your passwords.
Another essential rule to follow when salting is never to use the same salt twice. Doing so can significantly decrease its effectiveness, and even a single user can make your password less secure.
Furthermore, always use a cryptographically secure hashing algorithm to salt your passwords. These processes are highly secure and produce unpredictable and random salt values which make them much harder for hackers to decipher.
Create a unique salt for each user and password you create. Doing so will increase the computational power required to crack any password, thus preventing rainbow table attacks from taking place.
One common error people make when salting their passwords is using the same salt for multiple accounts. Unfortunately, this can backfire as it weakens the password’s security and invites hackers into your account more easily.
Additionally, you should avoid using usernames as salts since they are predictable and easy to reuse. Instead, add salt to each password created for an account.

This photo was taken by Yan Krukau and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-child-playing-with-salt-8435777/.

How Does Salting Work In Cybersecurity?

Salting is a security measure used in cybersecurity to make passwords more difficult to guess. It involves adding a random string of characters to passwords before they are stored.
This process generates a unique hash value, making it difficult for attackers to deduce the password without knowing its salt. This helps defend against attacks that rely on rainbow tables or other methods of obtaining stolen hashed passwords.
Additionally, salting increases the complexity of passwords, making them harder for hackers to crack. This makes dictionary and brute force attacks more challenging as they require more computational power to crack a password.
Additionally, it reduces the impact of hacking on user experience by offering a more secure password. Furthermore, it protects against password reuse since it generates unique hashes for each password entered.
Cybersecurity professionals often make the mistake of using the same salt multiple times, diminishing its effectiveness. Therefore, it is imperative to use a different salt each time you generate or alter your password.
When using salts, it’s essential to select a string of characters that is both random and unique. Doing this will guarantee that any two passwords with the same salt won’t match up.
Salting not only blocks rainbow table attacks, but it also prevents users from sharing their passwords with others – an essential measure in safeguarding personal data. Furthermore, this prevents passwords from being stored in databases where hackers often try to gain access to sensitive information.
Password encryption, which encrypts passwords before they are stored in a database, does not add an extra layer of protection for passwords. Salting adds another level by adding random characters to the plaintext before they are hashed. This enables websites to generate unique hashes for each password and restrict their accessibility.
Password salting limits access to databases and prevents employees from stealing sensitive data from the system. It also protects against the rainbow table and dictionary attacks. Furthermore, it helps identify hackers who have penetrated a system.

This photo was taken by Yan Krukau and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-child-playing-with-salt-8435778/.

What Are the Benefits Of Salting In Cybersecurity?

Encryption and hashing are essential steps in protecting data online. These methods enable us to generate complex passwords that can be stored safely in a database, blocking hackers from gaining access to our information and accounts without our knowledge or consent.
These processes can be circumvented by hackers using a variety of attacks. These include dictionary and rainbow table attacks, brute force methods, and password-spraying techniques.
For these attacks to succeed, hackers need the right combination of words in your password to crack its hash and gain access to your account. Thankfully, salting adds an additional layer of complexity to your password that makes it much harder for these attacks to succeed.
Password salting is a method to bolster the security of your passwords by adding an extra string of random data before they’re processed. This makes the hash more challenging to decipher and prevents it from being used in other attacks.
Another advantage of password salting is that it makes each user’s hashes unique. This can be particularly advantageous when multiple users share the same password across accounts or use identical credentials in different databases.
Salted hashes make them indistinguishable, even if they were created by the same individual. This makes it harder for hackers to use hash tables or rainbow tables to crack the hashes and also helps safeguard against password spraying attacks.
Salts can range in length from 32 characters or more and should be generated from a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator. It’s best not to store your salts within the password database itself; make sure they’re changed whenever passwords are altered or new ones are added.
Salting, combined with other password security measures, is an effective way to guarantee the privacy and confidentiality of your customers’ passwords. Not only does this protect them from identity theft, but it also improves website performance by blocking hackers from accessing the database.

This photo was taken by Yan Krukau and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-boy-sitting-on-the-floor-8435779/.