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"Inveniam viam aut faciam" : I will either find a way, or I shall make one


I have in the past spoken about passwords (see here), but the one of main problems with passwords is the people who use them. Users very often choose simple or easily guessed passwords. One of the best ways of sorting this out, is by doing a password audit. Now I know that to some people the idea of a password audit is seen as an ethical problem, but realisticly, it is very often the only way to check that your password policy is being enforced. Now in order to audit the passwords, you need to a password-cracking program, this is where "john" comes in...

What is Needed...
You will need to get the software of course, and I suggest getting both the latest build and also the last major build, as you will need the .chr files. The process should go something like this..
gzip -d john-1.6.tar.gz
tar -xvf john-1.6.tar
gzip -d john-1.6.39.tar.gz
tar -xvf john-1.6.39.tar
cd john-1.6.39
cd src
make clean generic
cd ..
cd run
cp ../../john-1.6/run/*.chr ./

After this is should have the john binary in your john-1.6.39 folder. You can also now download any dictionary files you may want to use (google is your friend),

Lets begin...
John-the-Ripper is a very nice tool (for both sides of the fence unfortunately) in that it is fast, portable, configurable, by default can automagically handle many different password hash types and is free. Now that we have the binary to work with, lets try a simple test. I assume you are on a linux box..
unshadow /etc/passwd /etc/shadow > mypasswd

This will create the mypasswd file which john can use to try to crack the passwords..
john mypasswd

That will use just the default settings that john has, also if you want to see the progress, hit the <space-bar> while john is running. John will output the cracked passwords as it gets them, while all the background stuff is stored in the *.pot. *.log and *.rec files.

Getting a little smarter
John also has some other modes which are very useful. You can use a dictionary..
john --wordlist=./words-english-big.dic ./mypasswd

You can use various text-mangling rules with your dictionary..
john --wordlist=./words-english-big.dic --rules ./mypasswd

You can use a full-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach (just do not expect it to finish anytime soon)..
john --incremental ./mypasswd

You can also create your own files for use by john as long as the follow the simple format of..

For example if you wanted a file taken from a samba smbpasswd file for John to crack the LanMan hashes you could use a script like..
for x in `cat /etc/samba/smbpasswd | cut -f 1,3 -d ":"`
  echo "$x::::" >> smb.lst

Final Words
John-the-Ripper is a very powerful tool with many other options, for example it can also do distributed cracking using multiple servers. So it would be well worth your while to play around a bit. As always have fun and learn.