Solid State Drive (SSD) based cracking programs have really been a hot topic over the past few years. They are fast, very fast. I did an article a while back on using SSD based look up tables to crack 14 character Windows passwords in 5 seconds.
The blazing speed is possible because of the characteristics of the LM based password hashes that Windows stores along with the stronger NTLM based hashes. The LM based hashes can be cracked with SSD based tables in about 5 seconds. The NTLM version of the password hash is more secure and can take significant time to crack. The solution then is simple, disable LM password hashing.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, the problem is, it doesn’t work. Even when you tell Windows to not store the less secure LM hash of the password, it still does.
Mike Pilkington posted an exceptional article today on this at the SANS Computer Forensics Blog. In his article, “Protecting Privileged Domain Accounts: LM Hashes — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly“, Mike shows that even when Windows policy is set to disable LM hashes, the hashes are still created!
The interesting thing is that the lower security hashes are not present on the SAM stored on the hard drive. But when the security accounts are loaded into active RAM, Windows re-creates the LM hashes!
According to Mike’s article, the LM Hash can be pulled from active RAM using the Windows Credential Editor (WCE).
What is the solution then? Make your passwords at least 15 characters! The LM Hash only supports passwords of 14 characters or less, so if your password is over 14 characters, Windows can not create the less secure hash.
Why would Windows do this? Some older programs still use LM based security, so most likely Windows creates it even when you tell it not to for backwards compatibility.
For more information, check out Mike’s article.