Network Working Group D. M'Raihi
Request for Comments: 4226 VeriSign
Category: Informational M. Bellare
UCSD
F. Hoornaert
Vasco
D. Naccache
Gemplus
O. Ranen
Aladdin
December 2005
HOTP: An HMACBased OneTime Password Algorithm
Status of This Memo
This memo provides information for the Internet community. It does
not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this
memo is unlimited.
Copyright Notice
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2005).
Abstract
This document describes an algorithm to generate onetime password
values, based on Hashed Message Authentication Code (HMAC). A
security analysis of the algorithm is presented, and important
parameters related to the secure deployment of the algorithm are
discussed. The proposed algorithm can be used across a wide range of
network applications ranging from remote Virtual Private Network
(VPN) access, WiFi network logon to transactionoriented Web
applications.
This work is a joint effort by the OATH (Open AuTHentication)
membership to specify an algorithm that can be freely distributed to
the technical community. The authors believe that a common and
shared algorithm will facilitate adoption of twofactor
authentication on the Internet by enabling interoperability across
commercial and opensource implementations.
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Table of Contents
1. Overview ........................................................3
2. Introduction ....................................................3
3. Requirements Terminology ........................................4
4. Algorithm Requirements ..........................................4
5. HOTP Algorithm ..................................................5
5.1. Notation and Symbols .......................................5
5.2. Description ................................................6
5.3. Generating an HOTP Value ...................................6
5.4. Example of HOTP Computation for Digit = 6 ..................7
6. Security Considerations .........................................8
7. Security Requirements ...........................................9
7.1. Authentication Protocol Requirements .......................9
7.2. Validation of HOTP Values .................................10
7.3. Throttling at the Server ..................................10
7.4. Resynchronization of the Counter ..........................11
7.5. Management of Shared Secrets ..............................11
8. Composite Shared Secrets .......................................14
9. BiDirectional Authentication ..................................14
10. Conclusion ....................................................15
11. Acknowledgements ..............................................15
12. Contributors ..................................................15
13. References ....................................................15
13.1. Normative References .....................................15
13.2. Informative References ...................................16
Appendix A  HOTP Algorithm Security: Detailed Analysis ...........17
A.1. Definitions and Notations .................................17
A.2. The Idealized Algorithm: HOTPIDEAL .......................17
A.3. Model of Security .........................................18
A.4. Security of the Ideal Authentication Algorithm ............19
A.4.1. From Bits to Digits ................................19
A.4.2. Brute Force Attacks ................................21
A.4.3. Brute force attacks are the best possible attacks ..22
A.5. Security Analysis of HOTP .................................23
Appendix B  SHA1 Attacks ........................................25
B.1. SHA1 Status ..............................................25
B.2. HMACSHA1 Status .........................................26
B.3. HOTP Status ...............................................26
Appendix C  HOTP Algorithm: Reference Implementation .............27
Appendix D  HOTP Algorithm: Test Values ..........................32
Appendix E  Extensions ...........................................33
E.1. Number of Digits ..........................................33
E.2. Alphanumeric Values .......................................33
E.3. Sequence of HOTP values ...................................34
E.4. A CounterBased Resynchronization Method ..................34
E.5. Data Field ................................................35
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1. Overview
The document introduces first the context around an algorithm that
generates onetime password values based on HMAC [BCK1] and, thus, is
named the HMACBased OneTime Password (HOTP) algorithm. In Section
4, the algorithm requirements are listed and in Section 5, the HOTP
algorithm is described. Sections 6 and 7 focus on the algorithm
security. Section 8 proposes some extensions and improvements, and
Section 10 concludes this document. In Appendix A, the interested
reader will find a detailed, fullfledged analysis of the algorithm
security: an idealized version of the algorithm is evaluated, and
then the HOTP algorithm security is analyzed.
2. Introduction
Today, deployment of twofactor authentication remains extremely
limited in scope and scale. Despite increasingly higher levels of
threats and attacks, most Internet applications still rely on weak
authentication schemes for policing user access. The lack of
interoperability among hardware and software technology vendors has
been a limiting factor in the adoption of twofactor authentication
technology. In particular, the absence of open specifications has
led to solutions where hardware and software components are tightly
coupled through proprietary technology, resulting in highcost
solutions, poor adoption, and limited innovation.
In the last two years, the rapid rise of network threats has exposed
the inadequacies of static passwords as the primary mean of
authentication on the Internet. At the same time, the current
approach that requires an end user to carry an expensive, single
function device that is only used to authenticate to the network is
clearly not the right answer. For twofactor authentication to
propagate on the Internet, it will have to be embedded in more
flexible devices that can work across a wide range of applications.
The ability to embed this base technology while ensuring broad
interoperability requires that it be made freely available to the
broad technical community of hardware and software developers. Only
an opensystem approach will ensure that basic twofactor
authentication primitives can be built into the next generation of
consumer devices such as USB mass storage devices, IP phones, and
personal digital assistants.
OneTime Password is certainly one of the simplest and most popular
forms of twofactor authentication for securing network access. For
example, in large enterprises, Virtual Private Network access often
requires the use of OneTime Password tokens for remote user
authentication. OneTime Passwords are often preferred to stronger
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forms of authentication such as PublicKey Infrastructure (PKI) or
biometrics because an airgap device does not require the
installation of any client desktop software on the user machine,
therefore allowing them to roam across multiple machines including
home computers, kiosks, and personal digital assistants.
This document proposes a simple OneTime Password algorithm that can
be implemented by any hardware manufacturer or software developer to
create interoperable authentication devices and software agents. The
algorithm is eventbased so that it can be embedded in highvolume
devices such as Java smart cards, USB dongles, and GSM SIM cards.
The presented algorithm is made freely available to the developer
community under the terms and conditions of the IETF Intellectual
Property Rights [RFC3979].
The authors of this document are members of the Open AuTHentication
initiative [OATH]. The initiative was created in 2004 to facilitate
collaboration among strong authentication technology providers.
3. Requirements Terminology
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].
4. Algorithm Requirements
This section presents the main requirements that drove this algorithm
design. A lot of emphasis was placed on endconsumer usability as
well as the ability for the algorithm to be implemented by lowcost
hardware that may provide minimal user interface capabilities. In
particular, the ability to embed the algorithm into highvolume SIM
and Java cards was a fundamental prerequisite.
R1  The algorithm MUST be sequence or counterbased: one of the
goals is to have the HOTP algorithm embedded in highvolume devices
such as Java smart cards, USB dongles, and GSM SIM cards.
R2  The algorithm SHOULD be economical to implement in hardware by
minimizing requirements on battery, number of buttons, computational
horsepower, and size of LCD display.
R3  The algorithm MUST work with tokens that do not support any
numeric input, but MAY also be used with more sophisticated devices
such as secure PINpads.
R4  The value displayed on the token MUST be easily read and entered
by the user: This requires the HOTP value to be of reasonable length.
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The HOTP value must be at least a 6digit value. It is also
desirable that the HOTP value be 'numeric only' so that it can be
easily entered on restricted devices such as phones.
R5  There MUST be userfriendly mechanisms available to
resynchronize the counter. Section 7.4 and Appendix E.4 details the
resynchronization mechanism proposed in this document
R6  The algorithm MUST use a strong shared secret. The length of
the shared secret MUST be at least 128 bits. This document
RECOMMENDs a shared secret length of 160 bits.
5. HOTP Algorithm
In this section, we introduce the notation and describe the HOTP
algorithm basic blocks  the base function to compute an HMACSHA1
value and the truncation method to extract an HOTP value.
5.1. Notation and Symbols
A string always means a binary string, meaning a sequence of zeros
and ones.
If s is a string, then s denotes its length.
If n is a number, then n denotes its absolute value.
If s is a string, then s[i] denotes its ith bit. We start numbering
the bits at 0, so s = s[0]s[1]...s[n1] where n = s is the length
of s.
Let StToNum (String to Number) denote the function that as input a
string s returns the number whose binary representation is s. (For
example, StToNum(110) = 6.)
Here is a list of symbols used in this document.
Symbol Represents

C 8byte counter value, the moving factor. This counter
MUST be synchronized between the HOTP generator (client)
and the HOTP validator (server).
K shared secret between client and server; each HOTP
generator has a different and unique secret K.
T throttling parameter: the server will refuse connections
from a user after T unsuccessful authentication attempts.
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s resynchronization parameter: the server will attempt to
verify a received authenticator across s consecutive
counter values.
Digit number of digits in an HOTP value; system parameter.
5.2. Description
The HOTP algorithm is based on an increasing counter value and a
static symmetric key known only to the token and the validation
service. In order to create the HOTP value, we will use the HMAC
SHA1 algorithm, as defined in RFC 2104 [BCK2].
As the output of the HMACSHA1 calculation is 160 bits, we must
truncate this value to something that can be easily entered by a
user.
HOTP(K,C) = Truncate(HMACSHA1(K,C))
Where:
 Truncate represents the function that converts an HMACSHA1
value into an HOTP value as defined in Section 5.3.
The Key (K), the Counter (C), and Data values are hashed highorder
byte first.
The HOTP values generated by the HOTP generator are treated as big
endian.
5.3. Generating an HOTP Value
We can describe the operations in 3 distinct steps:
Step 1: Generate an HMACSHA1 value Let HS = HMACSHA1(K,C) // HS
is a 20byte string
Step 2: Generate a 4byte string (Dynamic Truncation)
Let Sbits = DT(HS) // DT, defined below,
// returns a 31bit string
Step 3: Compute an HOTP value
Let Snum = StToNum(Sbits) // Convert S to a number in
0...2^{31}1
Return D = Snum mod 10^Digit // D is a number in the range
0...10^{Digit}1
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The Truncate function performs Step 2 and Step 3, i.e., the dynamic
truncation and then the reduction modulo 10^Digit. The purpose of
the dynamic offset truncation technique is to extract a 4byte
dynamic binary code from a 160bit (20byte) HMACSHA1 result.
DT(String) // String = String[0]...String[19]
Let OffsetBits be the loworder 4 bits of String[19]
Offset = StToNum(OffsetBits) // 0 <= OffSet <= 15
Let P = String[OffSet]...String[OffSet+3]
Return the Last 31 bits of P
The reason for masking the most significant bit of P is to avoid
confusion about signed vs. unsigned modulo computations. Different
processors perform these operations differently, and masking out the
signed bit removes all ambiguity.
Implementations MUST extract a 6digit code at a minimum and possibly
7 and 8digit code. Depending on security requirements, Digit = 7 or
more SHOULD be considered in order to extract a longer HOTP value.
The following paragraph is an example of using this technique for
Digit = 6, i.e., that a 6digit HOTP value is calculated from the
HMAC value.
5.4. Example of HOTP Computation for Digit = 6
The following code example describes the extraction of a dynamic
binary code given that hmac_result is a byte array with the HMAC
SHA1 result:
int offset = hmac_result[19] & 0xf ;
int bin_code = (hmac_result[offset] & 0x7f) << 24
 (hmac_result[offset+1] & 0xff) << 16
 (hmac_result[offset+2] & 0xff) << 8
 (hmac_result[offset+3] & 0xff) ;
SHA1 HMAC Bytes (Example)

 Byte Number 

0001020304050607080910111213141516171819

 Byte Value 

1f8698690e02ca16618550ef7f19da8e945b555a
***********++
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* The last byte (byte 19) has the hex value 0x5a.
* The value of the lower 4 bits is 0xa (the offset value).
* The offset value is byte 10 (0xa).
* The value of the 4 bytes starting at byte 10 is 0x50ef7f19,
which is the dynamic binary code DBC1.
* The MSB of DBC1 is 0x50 so DBC2 = DBC1 = 0x50ef7f19 .
* HOTP = DBC2 modulo 10^6 = 872921.
We treat the dynamic binary code as a 31bit, unsigned, bigendian
integer; the first byte is masked with a 0x7f.
We then take this number modulo 1,000,000 (10^6) to generate the 6
digit HOTP value 872921 decimal.
6. Security Considerations
The conclusion of the security analysis detailed in the Appendix is
that, for all practical purposes, the outputs of the Dynamic
Truncation (DT) on distinct counter inputs are uniformly and
independently distributed 31bit strings.
The security analysis then details the impact of the conversion from
a string to an integer and the final reduction modulo 10^Digit, where
Digit is the number of digits in an HOTP value.
The analysis demonstrates that these final steps introduce a
negligible bias, which does not impact the security of the HOTP
algorithm, in the sense that the best possible attack against the
HOTP function is the brute force attack.
Assuming an adversary is able to observe numerous protocol exchanges
and collect sequences of successful authentication values. This
adversary, trying to build a function F to generate HOTP values based
on his observations, will not have a significant advantage over a
random guess.
The logical conclusion is simply that the best strategy will once
again be to perform a brute force attack to enumerate and try all the
possible values.
Considering the security analysis in the Appendix of this document,
without loss of generality, we can approximate closely the security
of the HOTP algorithm by the following formula:
Sec = sv/10^Digit
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Where:
 Sec is the probability of success of the adversary;
 s is the lookahead synchronization window size;
 v is the number of verification attempts;
 Digit is the number of digits in HOTP values.
Obviously, we can play with s, T (the Throttling parameter that would
limit the number of attempts by an attacker), and Digit until
achieving a certain level of security, still preserving the system
usability.
7. Security Requirements
Any OneTime Password algorithm is only as secure as the application
and the authentication protocols that implement it. Therefore, this
section discusses the critical security requirements that our choice
of algorithm imposes on the authentication protocol and validation
software.
The parameters T and s discussed in this section have a significant
impact on the security  further details in Section 6 elaborate on
the relations between these parameters and their impact on the system
security.
It is also important to remark that the HOTP algorithm is not a
substitute for encryption and does not provide for the privacy of
data transmission. Other mechanisms should be used to defeat attacks
aimed at breaking confidentiality and privacy of transactions.
7.1. Authentication Protocol Requirements
We introduce in this section some requirements for a protocol P
implementing HOTP as the authentication method between a prover and a
verifier.
RP1  P MUST support twofactor authentication, i.e., the
communication and verification of something you know (secret code
such as a Password, Pass phrase, PIN code, etc.) and something you
have (token). The secret code is known only to the user and usually
entered with the OneTime Password value for authentication purpose
(twofactor authentication).
RP2  P SHOULD NOT be vulnerable to brute force attacks. This
implies that a throttling/lockout scheme is RECOMMENDED on the
validation server side.
RP3  P SHOULD be implemented over a secure channel in order to
protect users' privacy and avoid replay attacks.
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7.2. Validation of HOTP Values
The HOTP client (hardware or software token) increments its counter
and then calculates the next HOTP value HOTP client. If the value
received by the authentication server matches the value calculated by
the client, then the HOTP value is validated. In this case, the
server increments the counter value by one.
If the value received by the server does not match the value
calculated by the client, the server initiate the resynch protocol
(lookahead window) before it requests another pass.
If the resynch fails, the server asks then for another
authentication pass of the protocol to take place, until the
maximum number of authorized attempts is reached.
If and when the maximum number of authorized attempts is reached, the
server SHOULD lock out the account and initiate a procedure to inform
the user.
7.3. Throttling at the Server
Truncating the HMACSHA1 value to a shorter value makes a brute
force attack possible. Therefore, the authentication server needs to
detect and stop brute force attacks.
We RECOMMEND setting a throttling parameter T, which defines the
maximum number of possible attempts for OneTime Password validation.
The validation server manages individual counters per HOTP device in
order to take note of any failed attempt. We RECOMMEND T not to be
too large, particularly if the resynchronization method used on the
server is windowbased, and the window size is large. T SHOULD be
set as low as possible, while still ensuring that usability is not
significantly impacted.
Another option would be to implement a delay scheme to avoid a brute
force attack. After each failed attempt A, the authentication server
would wait for an increased T*A number of seconds, e.g., say T = 5,
then after 1 attempt, the server waits for 5 seconds, at the second
failed attempt, it waits for 5*2 = 10 seconds, etc.
The delay or lockout schemes MUST be across login sessions to prevent
attacks based on multiple parallel guessing techniques.
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7.4. Resynchronization of the Counter
Although the server's counter value is only incremented after a
successful HOTP authentication, the counter on the token is
incremented every time a new HOTP is requested by the user. Because
of this, the counter values on the server and on the token might be
out of synchronization.
We RECOMMEND setting a lookahead parameter s on the server, which
defines the size of the lookahead window. In a nutshell, the server
can recalculate the next s HOTPserver values, and check them against
the received HOTP client.
Synchronization of counters in this scenario simply requires the
server to calculate the next HOTP values and determine if there is a
match. Optionally, the system MAY require the user to send a
sequence of (say, 2, 3) HOTP values for resynchronization purpose,
since forging a sequence of consecutive HOTP values is even more
difficult than guessing a single HOTP value.
The upper bound set by the parameter s ensures the server does not go
on checking HOTP values forever (causing a denialofservice attack)
and also restricts the space of possible solutions for an attacker
trying to manufacture HOTP values. s SHOULD be set as low as
possible, while still ensuring that usability is not impacted.
7.5. Management of Shared Secrets
The operations dealing with the shared secrets used to generate and
verify OTP values must be performed securely, in order to mitigate
risks of any leakage of sensitive information. We describe in this
section different modes of operations and techniques to perform these
different operations with respect to the state of the art in data
security.
We can consider two different avenues for generating and storing
(securely) shared secrets in the Validation system:
* Deterministic Generation: secrets are derived from a master
seed, both at provisioning and verification stages and generated
onthefly whenever it is required.
* Random Generation: secrets are generated randomly at
provisioning stage and must be stored immediately and kept
secure during their life cycle.
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Deterministic Generation

A possible strategy is to derive the shared secrets from a master
secret. The master secret will be stored at the server only. A
tamperresistant device MUST be used to store the master key and
derive the shared secrets from the master key and some public
information. The main benefit would be to avoid the exposure of the
shared secrets at any time and also avoid specific requirements on
storage, since the shared secrets could be generated ondemand when
needed at provisioning and validation time.
We distinguish two different cases:
 A single master key MK is used to derive the shared secrets;
each HOTP device has a different secret, K_i = SHA1 (MK,i)
where i stands for a public piece of information that identifies
uniquely the HOTP device such as a serial number, a token ID,
etc. Obviously, this is in the context of an application or
service  different application or service providers will have
different secrets and settings.
 Several master keys MK_i are used and each HOTP device stores a
set of different derived secrets, {K_i,j = SHA1(MK_i,j)} where
j stands for a public piece of information identifying the
device. The idea would be to store ONLY the active master key
at the validation server, in the Hardware Security Module (HSM),
and keep in a safe place, using secret sharing methods such as
[Shamir] for instance. In this case, if a master secret MK_i is
compromised, then it is possible to switch to another secret
without replacing all the devices.
The drawback in the deterministic case is that the exposure of the
master secret would obviously enable an attacker to rebuild any
shared secret based on correct public information. The revocation of
all secrets would be required, or switching to a new set of secrets
in the case of multiple master keys.
On the other hand, the device used to store the master key(s) and
generate the shared secrets MUST be tamper resistant. Furthermore,
the HSM will not be exposed outside the security perimeter of the
validation system, therefore reducing the risk of leakage.
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Random Generation

The shared secrets are randomly generated. We RECOMMEND following
the recommendations in [RFC4086] and selecting a good and secure
random source for generating these secrets. A (true) random
generator requires a naturally occurring source of randomness.
Practically, there are two possible avenues to consider for the
generation of the shared secrets:
* Hardwarebased generators: they exploit the randomness that
occurs in physical phenomena. A nice implementation can be based on
oscillators and built in such ways that active attacks are more
difficult to perform.
* Softwarebased generators: designing a good software random
generator is not an easy task. A simple, but efficient,
implementation should be based on various sources and apply to the
sampled sequence a oneway function such as SHA1.
We RECOMMEND selecting proven products, being hardware or software
generators, for the computation of shared secrets.
We also RECOMMEND storing the shared secrets securely, and more
specifically encrypting the shared secrets when stored using tamper
resistant hardware encryption and exposing them only when required:
for example, the shared secret is decrypted when needed to verify an
HOTP value, and reencrypted immediately to limit exposure in the RAM
for a short period of time. The data store holding the shared
secrets MUST be in a secure area, to avoid as much as possible direct
attack on the validation system and secrets database.
Particularly, access to the shared secrets should be limited to
programs and processes required by the validation system only. We
will not elaborate on the different security mechanisms to put in
place, but obviously, the protection of shared secrets is of the
uttermost importance.
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8. Composite Shared Secrets
It may be desirable to include additional authentication factors in
the shared secret K. These additional factors can consist of any
data known at the token but not easily obtained by others. Examples
of such data include:
* PIN or Password obtained as user input at the token
* Phone number
* Any unique identifier programmatically available at the token
In this scenario, the composite shared secret K is constructed during
the provisioning process from a random seed value combined with one
or more additional authentication factors. The server could either
build ondemand or store composite secrets  in any case, depending
on implementation choice, the token only stores the seed value. When
the token performs the HOTP calculation, it computes K from the seed
value and the locally derived or input values of the other
authentication factors.
The use of composite shared secrets can strengthen HOTPbased
authentication systems through the inclusion of additional
authentication factors at the token. To the extent that the token is
a trusted device, this approach has the further benefit of not
requiring exposure of the authentication factors (such as the user
input PIN) to other devices.
9. BiDirectional Authentication
Interestingly enough, the HOTP client could also be used to
authenticate the validation server, claiming that it is a genuine
entity knowing the shared secret.
Since the HOTP client and the server are synchronized and share the
same secret (or a method to recompute it), a simple 3pass protocol
could be put in place:
1 The end user enter the TokenID and a first OTP value OTP1;
2 The server checks OTP1 and if correct, sends back OTP2;
3 The end user checks OTP2 using his HOTP device and if correct,
uses the web site.
Obviously, as indicated previously, all the OTP communications have
to take place over a secure channel, e.g., SSL/TLS, IPsec
connections.
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10. Conclusion
This document describes HOTP, a HMACbased OneTime Password
algorithm. It also recommends the preferred implementation and
related modes of operations for deploying the algorithm.
The document also exhibits elements of security and demonstrates that
the HOTP algorithm is practical and sound, the best possible attack
being a brute force attack that can be prevented by careful
implementation of countermeasures in the validation server.
Eventually, several enhancements have been proposed, in order to
improve security if needed for specific applications.
11. Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Siddharth Bajaj, Alex Deacon, Loren
Hart, and Nico Popp for their help during the conception and
redaction of this document.
12. Contributors
The authors of this document would like to emphasize the role of
three persons who have made a key contribution to this document:
 Laszlo Elteto is system architect with SafeNet, Inc.
 Ernesto Frutos is director of Engineering with Authenex, Inc.
 Fred McClain is Founder and CTO with Boojum Mobile, Inc.
Without their advice and valuable inputs, this document would not be
the same.
13. References
13.1. Normative References
[BCK1] M. Bellare, R. Canetti and H. Krawczyk, "Keyed Hash
Functions and Message Authentication", Proceedings of
Crypto'96, LNCS Vol. 1109, pp. 115.
[BCK2] Krawczyk, H., Bellare, M., and R. Canetti, "HMAC: Keyed
Hashing for Message Authentication", RFC 2104, February
1997.
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
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RFC 4226 HOTP Algorithm December 2005
[RFC3979] Bradner, S., "Intellectual Property Rights in IETF
Technology", BCP 79, RFC 3979, March 2005.
[RFC4086] Eastlake, D., 3rd, Schiller, J., and S. Crocker,
"Randomness Requirements for Security", BCP 106, RFC 4086,
June 2005.
13.2. Informative References
[OATH] Initiative for Open AuTHentication
http://www.openauthentication.org
[PrOo] B. Preneel and P. van Oorschot, "MDx MAC and building
fast MACs from hash functions", Advances in Cryptology
CRYPTO '95, Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol. 963, D.
Coppersmith ed., SpringerVerlag, 1995.
[Crack] Crack in SHA1 code 'stuns' security gurus
http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?
articleID=60402150
[Sha1] Bruce Schneier. SHA1 broken. February 15, 2005.
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/02/
sha1_broken.html
[Res] Researchers: Digital encryption standard flawed
http://news.com.com/
Researchers+Digital+encryption+standard+flawed/
210010025579881.html?part=dht&tag=ntop&tag=nl.e703
[Shamir] How to Share a Secret, by Adi Shamir. In Communications
of the ACM, Vol. 22, No. 11, pp. 612613, November, 1979.
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Appendix A  HOTP Algorithm Security: Detailed Analysis
The security analysis of the HOTP algorithm is summarized in this
section. We first detail the best attack strategies, and then
elaborate on the security under various assumptions and the impact of
the truncation and make some recommendations regarding the number of
digits.
We focus this analysis on the case where Digit = 6, i.e., an HOTP
function that produces 6digit values, which is the bare minimum
recommended in this document.
A.1. Definitions and Notations
We denote by {0,1}^l the set of all strings of length l.
Let Z_{n} = {0,.., n  1}.
Let IntDiv(a,b) denote the integer division algorithm that takes
input integers a, b where a >= b >= 1 and returns integers (q,r)
the quotient and remainder, respectively, of the division of a by b.
(Thus, a = bq + r and 0 <= r < b.)
Let H: {0,1}^k x {0,1}^c > {0,1}^n be the base function that takes
a kbit key K and cbit counter C and returns an nbit output H(K,C).
(In the case of HOTP, H is HMACSHA1; we use this formal definition
for generalizing our proof of security.)
A.2. The Idealized Algorithm: HOTPIDEAL
We now define an idealized counterpart of the HOTP algorithm. In
this algorithm, the role of H is played by a random function that
forms the key.
To be more precise, let Maps(c,n) denote the set of all functions
mapping from {0,1}^c to {0,1}^n. The idealized algorithm has key
space Maps(c,n), so that a "key" for such an algorithm is a function
h from {0,1}^c to {0,1}^n. We imagine this key (function) to be
drawn at random. It is not feasible to implement this idealized
algorithm, since the key, being a function from {0,1}^c to {0,1}^n,
is way too large to even store. So why consider it?
Our security analysis will show that as long as H satisfies a certain
wellaccepted assumption, the security of the actual and idealized
algorithms is for all practical purposes the same. The task that
really faces us, then, is to assess the security of the idealized
algorithm.
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In analyzing the idealized algorithm, we are concentrating on
assessing the quality of the design of the algorithm itself,
independently of HMACSHA1. This is in fact the important issue.
A.3. Model of Security
The model exhibits the type of threats or attacks that are being
considered and enables one to assess the security of HOTP and HOTP
IDEAL. We denote ALG as either HOTP or HOTPIDEAL for the purpose of
this security analysis.
The scenario we are considering is that a user and server share a key
K for ALG. Both maintain a counter C, initially zero, and the user
authenticates itself by sending ALG(K,C) to the server. The latter
accepts if this value is correct.
In order to protect against accidental increment of the user counter,
the server, upon receiving a value z, will accept as long as z equals
ALG(K,i) for some i in the range C,...,C + s1, where s is the
resynchronization parameter and C is the server counter. If it
accepts with some value of i, it then increments its counter to i+1.
If it does not accept, it does not change its counter value.
The model we specify captures what an adversary can do and what it
needs to achieve in order to "win". First, the adversary is assumed
to be able to eavesdrop, meaning, to see the authenticator
transmitted by the user. Second, the adversary wins if it can get
the server to accept an authenticator relative to a counter value for
which the user has never transmitted an authenticator.
The formal adversary, which we denote by B, starts out knowing which
algorithm ALG is being used, knowing the system design, and knowing
all system parameters. The one and only thing it is not given a
priori is the key K shared between the user and the server.
The model gives B full control of the scheduling of events. It has
access to an authenticator oracle representing the user. By calling
this oracle, the adversary can ask the user to authenticate itself
and get back the authenticator in return. It can call this oracle as
often as it wants and when it wants, using the authenticators it
accumulates to perhaps "learn" how to make authenticators itself. At
any time, it may also call a verification oracle, supplying the
latter with a candidate authenticator of its choice. It wins if the
server accepts this accumulator.
Consider the following game involving an adversary B that is
attempting to compromise the security of an authentication algorithm
ALG: K x {0,1}^c > R.
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Initializations  A key K is selected at random from K, a counter C
is initialized to 0, and the Boolean value win is set to false.
Game execution  Adversary B is provided with the two following
oracles:
Oracle AuthO()

A = ALG(K,C)
C = C + 1
Return O to B
Oracle VerO(A)

i = C
While (i <= C + s  1 and Win == FALSE) do
If A == ALG(K,i) then Win = TRUE; C = i + 1
Else i = i + 1
Return Win to B
AuthO() is the authenticator oracle and VerO(A) is the verification
oracle.
Upon execution, B queries the two oracles at will. Let Adv(B) be the
probability that win gets set to true in the above game. This is the
probability that the adversary successfully impersonates the user.
Our goal is to assess how large this value can be as a function of
the number v of verification queries made by B, the number a of
authenticator oracle queries made by B, and the running time t of B.
This will tell us how to set the throttle, which effectively upper
bounds v.
A.4. Security of the Ideal Authentication Algorithm
This section summarizes the security analysis of HOTPIDEAL, starting
with the impact of the conversion modulo 10^Digit and then focusing
on the different possible attacks.
A.4.1. From Bits to Digits
The dynamic offset truncation of a random nbit string yields a
random 31bit string. What happens to the distribution when it is
taken modulo m = 10^Digit, as done in HOTP?
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The following lemma estimates the biases in the outputs in this case.
Lemma 1

Let N >= m >= 1 be integers, and let (q,r) = IntDiv(N,m). For z in
Z_{m} let:
P_{N,m}(z) = Pr [x mod m = z : x randomly pick in Z_{n}]
Then for any z in Z_{m}
P_{N,m}(z) = (q + 1) / N if 0 <= z < r
q / N if r <= z < m
Proof of Lemma 1

Let the random variable X be uniformly distributed over Z_{N}. Then:
P_{N,m}(z) = Pr [X mod m = z]
= Pr [X < mq] * Pr [X mod m = z X < mq]
+ Pr [mq <= X < N] * Pr [X mod m = z mq <= X < N]
= mq/N * 1/m +
(N  mq)/N * 1 / (N  mq) if 0 <= z < N  mq
0 if N  mq <= z <= m
= q/N +
r/N * 1 / r if 0 <= z < N  mq
0 if r <= z <= m
Simplifying yields the claimed equation.
Let N = 2^31, d = 6, and m = 10^d. If x is chosen at random from
Z_{N} (meaning, is a random 31bit string), then reducing it to a 6
digit number by taking x mod m does not yield a random 6digit
number.
Rather, x mod m is distributed as shown in the following table:
Values Probability that each appears as output

0,1,...,483647 2148/2^31 roughly equals to 1.00024045/10^6
483648,...,999999 2147/2^31 roughly equals to 0.99977478/10^6
If X is uniformly distributed over Z_{2^31} (meaning, is a random
31bit string), then the above shows the probabilities for different
outputs of X mod 10^6. The first set of values appears with
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probability slightly greater than 10^6, the rest with probability
slightly less, meaning that the distribution is slightly nonuniform.
However, as the table above indicates, the bias is small, and as we
will see later, negligible: the probabilities are very close to
10^6.
A.4.2. Brute Force Attacks
If the authenticator consisted of d random digits, then a brute force
attack using v verification attempts would succeed with probability
sv/10^Digit.
However, an adversary can exploit the bias in the outputs of
HOTPIDEAL, predicted by Lemma 1, to mount a slightly better attack.
Namely, it makes authentication attempts with authenticators that are
the most likely values, meaning the ones in the range 0,...,r  1,
where (q,r) = IntDiv(2^31,10^Digit).
The following specifies an adversary in our model of security that
mounts the attack. It estimates the success probability as a
function of the number of verification queries.
For simplicity, we assume that the number of verification queries is
at most r. With N = 2^31 and m = 10^6, we have r = 483,648, and the
throttle value is certainly less than this, so this assumption is not
much of a restriction.
Proposition 1

Suppose m = 10^Digit < 2^31, and let (q,r) = IntDiv(2^31,m). Assume
s <= m. The bruteforceattack adversary Bbf attacks HOTP using v
<= r verification oracle queries. This adversary makes no
authenticator oracle queries, and succeeds with probability
Adv(Bbf) = 1  (1  v(q+1)/2^31)^s
which is roughly equal to
sv * (q+1)/2^31
With m = 10^6 we get q = 2,147. In that case, the brute force attack
using v verification attempts succeeds with probability
Adv(Bbf) roughly = sv * 2148/2^31 = sv * 1.00024045/10^6
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As this equation shows, the resynchronization parameter s has a
significant impact in that the adversary's success probability is
proportional to s. This means that s cannot be made too large
without compromising security.
A.4.3. Brute force attacks are the best possible attacks.
A central question is whether there are attacks any better than the
brute force one. In particular, the brute force attack did not
attempt to collect authenticators sent by the user and try to
cryptanalyze them in an attempt to learn how to better construct
authenticators. Would doing this help? Is there some way to "learn"
how to build authenticators that result in a higher success rate than
given by the bruteforce attack?
The following says the answer to these questions is no. No matter
what strategy the adversary uses, and even if it sees, and tries to
exploit, the authenticators from authentication attempts of the user,
its success probability will not be above that of the brute force
attack  this is true as long as the number of authentications it
observes is not incredibly large. This is valuable information
regarding the security of the scheme.
Proposition 2  Suppose m = 10^Digit < 2^31, and let
(q,r) = IntDiv(2^31,m). Let B be any adversary attacking HOTPIDEAL
using v verification oracle queries and a <= 2^c  s authenticator
oracle queries. Then
Adv(B) < = sv * (q+1)/ 2^31
Note: This result is conditional on the adversary not seeing more
than 2^c  s authentications performed by the user, which is hardly
restrictive as long as c is large enough.
With m = 10^6, we get q = 2,147. In that case, Proposition 2 says
that any adversary B attacking HOTPIDEAL and making v verification
attempts succeeds with probability at most
Equation 1

sv * 2148/2^31 roughly = sv * 1.00024045/10^6
Meaning, B's success rate is not more than that achieved by the brute
force attack.
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A.5. Security Analysis of HOTP
We have analyzed, in the previous sections, the security of the
idealized counterparts HOTPIDEAL of the actual authentication
algorithm HOTP. We now show that, under appropriate and well
believed assumption on H, the security of the actual algorithms is
essentially the same as that of its idealized counterpart.
The assumption in question is that H is a secure pseudorandom
function, or PRF, meaning that its inputoutput values are
indistinguishable from those of a random function in practice.
Consider an adversary A that is given an oracle for a function f:
{0,1}^c > {0, 1}^n and eventually outputs a bit. We denote Adv(A)
as the prfadvantage of A, which represents how well the adversary
does at distinguishing the case where its oracle is H(K,.) from the
case where its oracle is a random function of {0,1}^c to {0,1}^n.
One possible attack is based on exhaustive search for the key K. If
A runs for t steps and T denotes the time to perform one computation
of H, its prfadvantage from this attack turns out to be (t/T)2^k.
Another possible attack is a birthday one [PrOo], whereby A can
attain advantage p^2/2^n in p oracle queries and running time about
pT.
Our assumption is that these are the best possible attacks. This
translates into the following.
Assumption 1

Let T denotes the time to perform one computation of H. Then if A is
any adversary with running time at most t and making at most p oracle
queries,
Adv(A) <= (t/T)/2^k + p^2/2^n
In practice, this assumption means that H is very secure as PRF. For
example, given that k = n = 160, an attacker with running time 2^60
and making 2^40 oracle queries has advantage at most (about) 2^80.
Theorem 1

Suppose m = 10^Digit < 2^31, and let (q,r) = IntDiv(2^31,m). Let B
be any adversary attacking HOTP using v verification oracle queries,
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a <= 2^c  s authenticator oracle queries, and running time t. Let T
denote the time to perform one computation of H. If Assumption 1 is
true, then
Adv(B) <= sv * (q + 1)/2^31 + (t/T)/2^k + ((sv + a)^2)/2^n
In practice, the (t/T)2^k + ((sv + a)^2)2^n term is much smaller
than the sv(q + 1)/2^n term, so that the above says that for all
practical purposes the success rate of an adversary attacking HOTP is
sv(q + 1)/2^n, just as for HOTPIDEAL, meaning the HOTP algorithm is
in practice essentially as good as its idealized counterpart.
In the case m = 10^6 of a 6digit output, this means that an
adversary making v authentication attempts will have a success rate
that is at most that of Equation 1.
For example, consider an adversary with running time at most 2^60
that sees at most 2^40 authentication attempts of the user. Both
these choices are very generous to the adversary, who will typically
not have these resources, but we are saying that even such a powerful
adversary will not have more success than indicated by Equation 1.
We can safely assume sv <= 2^40 due to the throttling and bounds on
s. So:
(t/T)/2^k + ((sv + a)^2)/2^n <= 2^60/2^160 + (2^41)^2/2^160
roughly <= 2^78
which is much smaller than the success probability of Equation 1 and
negligible compared to it.
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Appendix B  SHA1 Attacks
This sections addresses the impact of the recent attacks on SHA1 on
the security of the HMACSHA1based HOTP. We begin with some
discussion of the situation of SHA1 and then discuss the relevance
to HMACSHA1 and HOTP. Cited references are in Section 13.
B.1. SHA1 Status
A collision for a hash function h means a pair x,y of different
inputs such that h(x)=h(y). Since SHA1 outputs 160 bits, a birthday
attack finds a collision in 2^{80} trials. (A trial means one
computation of the function.) This was thought to be the best
possible until Wang, Yin, and Yu announced on February 15, 2005, that
they had an attack finding collisions in 2^{69} trials.
Is SHA1 broken? For most practical purposes, we would say probably
not, since the resources needed to mount the attack are huge. Here
is one way to get a sense of it: we can estimate it is about the same
as the time we would need to factor a 760bit RSA modulus, and this
is currently considered out of reach.
Burr of NIST is quoted in [Crack] as saying "Large national
intelligence agencies could do this in a reasonable amount of time
with a few million dollars in computer time". However, the
computation may be out of reach of all but such wellfunded agencies.
One should also ask what impact finding SHA1 collisions actually has
on security of real applications such as signatures. To exploit a
collision x,y to forge signatures, you need to somehow obtain a
signature of x and then you can forge a signature of y. How damaging
this is depends on the content of y: the y created by the attack may
not be meaningful in the application context. Also, one needs a
chosenmessage attack to get the signature of x. This seems possible
in some contexts, but not others. Overall, it is not clear that the
impact on the security of signatures is significant.
Indeed, one can read in the press that SHA1 is "broken" [Sha1] and
that encryption and SSL are "broken" [Res]. The media have a
tendency to magnify events: it would hardly be interesting to
announce in the news that a team of cryptanalysts did very
interesting theoretical work in attacking SHA1.
Cryptographers are excited too. But mainly because this is an
important theoretical breakthrough. Attacks can only get better with
time: it is therefore important to monitor any progress in hash
functions cryptanalysis and be prepared for any really practical
break with a sound migration plan for the future.
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B.2. HMACSHA1 Status
The new attacks on SHA1 have no impact on the security of
HMACSHA1. The best attack on the latter remains one needing a
sender to authenticate 2^{80} messages before an adversary can create
a forgery. Why?
HMAC is not a hash function. It is a message authentication code
(MAC) that uses a hash function internally. A MAC depends on a
secret key, while hash functions don't. What one needs to worry
about with a MAC is forgery, not collisions. HMAC was designed so
that collisions in the hash function (here SHA1) do not yield
forgeries for HMAC.
Recall that HMACSHA1(K,x) = SHA1(K_o,SHA1(K_i,x)) where the keys
K_o,K_i are derived from K. Suppose the attacker finds a pair x,y
such that SHA1(K_i,x) = SHA1(K_i,y). (Call this a hiddenkey
collision.) Then if it can obtain the MAC of x (itself a tall
order), it can forge the MAC of y. (These values are the same.) But
finding hiddenkey collisions is harder than finding collisions,
because the attacker does not know the hidden key K_i. All it may
have is some outputs of HMACSHA1 with key K. To date, there are no
claims or evidence that the recent attacks on SHA1 extend to find
hiddenkey collisions.
Historically, the HMAC design has already proven itself in this
regard. MD5 is considered broken in that collisions in this hash
function can be found relatively easily. But there is still no
attack on HMACMD5 better than the trivial 2^{64} time birthday one.
(MD5 outputs 128 bits, not 160.) We are seeing this strength of HMAC
coming into play again in the SHA1 context.
B.3. HOTP Status
Since no new weakness has surfaced in HMACSHA1, there is no impact
on HOTP. The best attacks on HOTP remain those described in the
document, namely, to try to guess output values.
The security proof of HOTP requires that HMACSHA1 behave like a
pseudorandom function. The quality of HMACSHA1 as a pseudorandom
function is not impacted by the new attacks on SHA1, and so neither
is this proven guarantee.
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Appendix C  HOTP Algorithm: Reference Implementation
/*
* OneTimePasswordAlgorithm.java
* OATH Initiative,
* HOTP onetime password algorithm
*
*/
/* Copyright (C) 2004, OATH. All rights reserved.
*
* License to copy and use this software is granted provided that it
* is identified as the "OATH HOTP Algorithm" in all material
* mentioning or referencing this software or this function.
*
* License is also granted to make and use derivative works provided
* that such works are identified as
* "derived from OATH HOTP algorithm"
* in all material mentioning or referencing the derived work.
*
* OATH (Open AuTHentication) and its members make no
* representations concerning either the merchantability of this
* software or the suitability of this software for any particular
* purpose.
*
* It is provided "as is" without express or implied warranty
* of any kind and OATH AND ITS MEMBERS EXPRESSaLY DISCLAIMS
* ANY WARRANTY OR LIABILITY OF ANY KIND relating to this software.
*
* These notices must be retained in any copies of any part of this
* documentation and/or software.
*/
package org.openauthentication.otp;
import java.io.IOException;
import java.io.File;
import java.io.DataInputStream;
import java.io.FileInputStream ;
import java.lang.reflect.UndeclaredThrowableException;
import java.security.GeneralSecurityException;
import java.security.NoSuchAlgorithmException;
import java.security.InvalidKeyException;
import javax.crypto.Mac;
import javax.crypto.spec.SecretKeySpec;
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/**
* This class contains static methods that are used to calculate the
* OneTime Password (OTP) using
* JCE to provide the HMACSHA1.
*
* @author Loren Hart
* @version 1.0
*/
public class OneTimePasswordAlgorithm {
private OneTimePasswordAlgorithm() {}
// These are used to calculate the checksum digits.
// 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
private static final int[] doubleDigits =
{ 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 };
/**
* Calculates the checksum using the credit card algorithm.
* This algorithm has the advantage that it detects any single
* mistyped digit and any single transposition of
* adjacent digits.
*
* @param num the number to calculate the checksum for
* @param digits number of significant places in the number
*
* @return the checksum of num
*/
public static int calcChecksum(long num, int digits) {
boolean doubleDigit = true;
int total = 0;
while (0 < digits) {
int digit = (int) (num % 10);
num /= 10;
if (doubleDigit) {
digit = doubleDigits[digit];
}
total += digit;
doubleDigit = !doubleDigit;
}
int result = total % 10;
if (result > 0) {
result = 10  result;
}
return result;
}
/**
* This method uses the JCE to provide the HMACSHA1
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* algorithm.
* HMAC computes a Hashed Message Authentication Code and
* in this case SHA1 is the hash algorithm used.
*
* @param keyBytes the bytes to use for the HMACSHA1 key
* @param text the message or text to be authenticated.
*
* @throws NoSuchAlgorithmException if no provider makes
* either HmacSHA1 or HMACSHA1
* digest algorithms available.
* @throws InvalidKeyException
* The secret provided was not a valid HMACSHA1 key.
*
*/
public static byte[] hmac_sha1(byte[] keyBytes, byte[] text)
throws NoSuchAlgorithmException, InvalidKeyException
{
// try {
Mac hmacSha1;
try {
hmacSha1 = Mac.getInstance("HmacSHA1");
} catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException nsae) {
hmacSha1 = Mac.getInstance("HMACSHA1");
}
SecretKeySpec macKey =
new SecretKeySpec(keyBytes, "RAW");
hmacSha1.init(macKey);
return hmacSha1.doFinal(text);
// } catch (GeneralSecurityException gse) {
// throw new UndeclaredThrowableException(gse);
// }
}
private static final int[] DIGITS_POWER
// 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
= {1,10,100,1000,10000,100000,1000000,10000000,100000000};
/**
* This method generates an OTP value for the given
* set of parameters.
*
* @param secret the shared secret
* @param movingFactor the counter, time, or other value that
* changes on a per use basis.
* @param codeDigits the number of digits in the OTP, not
* including the checksum, if any.
* @param addChecksum a flag that indicates if a checksum digit
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* should be appended to the OTP.
* @param truncationOffset the offset into the MAC result to
* begin truncation. If this value is out of
* the range of 0 ... 15, then dynamic
* truncation will be used.
* Dynamic truncation is when the last 4
* bits of the last byte of the MAC are
* used to determine the start offset.
* @throws NoSuchAlgorithmException if no provider makes
* either HmacSHA1 or HMACSHA1
* digest algorithms available.
* @throws InvalidKeyException
* The secret provided was not
* a valid HMACSHA1 key.
*
* @return A numeric String in base 10 that includes
* {@link codeDigits} digits plus the optional checksum
* digit if requested.
*/
static public String generateOTP(byte[] secret,
long movingFactor,
int codeDigits,
boolean addChecksum,
int truncationOffset)
throws NoSuchAlgorithmException, InvalidKeyException
{
// put movingFactor value into text byte array
String result = null;
int digits = addChecksum ? (codeDigits + 1) : codeDigits;
byte[] text = new byte[8];
for (int i = text.length  1; i >= 0; i) {
text[i] = (byte) (movingFactor & 0xff);
movingFactor >>= 8;
}
// compute hmac hash
byte[] hash = hmac_sha1(secret, text);
// put selected bytes into result int
int offset = hash[hash.length  1] & 0xf;
if ( (0<=truncationOffset) &&
(truncationOffset<(hash.length4)) ) {
offset = truncationOffset;
}
int binary =
((hash[offset] & 0x7f) << 24)
 ((hash[offset + 1] & 0xff) << 16)
 ((hash[offset + 2] & 0xff) << 8)
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 (hash[offset + 3] & 0xff);
int otp = binary % DIGITS_POWER[codeDigits];
if (addChecksum) {
otp = (otp * 10) + calcChecksum(otp, codeDigits);
}
result = Integer.toString(otp);
while (result.length() < digits) {
result = "0" + result;
}
return result;
}
}
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Appendix D  HOTP Algorithm: Test Values
The following test data uses the ASCII string
"12345678901234567890" for the secret:
Secret = 0x3132333435363738393031323334353637383930
Table 1 details for each count, the intermediate HMAC value.
Count Hexadecimal HMACSHA1(secret, count)
0 cc93cf18508d94934c64b65d8ba7667fb7cde4b0
1 75a48a19d4cbe100644e8ac1397eea747a2d33ab
2 0bacb7fa082fef30782211938bc1c5e70416ff44
3 66c28227d03a2d5529262ff016a1e6ef76557ece
4 a904c900a64b35909874b33e61c5938a8e15ed1c
5 a37e783d7b7233c083d4f62926c7a25f238d0316
6 bc9cd28561042c83f219324d3c607256c03272ae
7 a4fb960c0bc06e1eabb804e5b397cdc4b45596fa
8 1b3c89f65e6c9e883012052823443f048b4332db
9 1637409809a679dc698207310c8c7fc07290d9e5
Table 2 details for each count the truncated values (both in
hexadecimal and decimal) and then the HOTP value.
Truncated
Count Hexadecimal Decimal HOTP
0 4c93cf18 1284755224 755224
1 41397eea 1094287082 287082
2 82fef30 137359152 359152
3 66ef7655 1726969429 969429
4 61c5938a 1640338314 338314
5 33c083d4 868254676 254676
6 7256c032 1918287922 287922
7 4e5b397 82162583 162583
8 2823443f 673399871 399871
9 2679dc69 645520489 520489
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Appendix E  Extensions
We introduce in this section several enhancements to the HOTP
algorithm. These are not recommended extensions or part of the
standard algorithm, but merely variations that could be used for
customized implementations.
E.1. Number of Digits
A simple enhancement in terms of security would be to extract more
digits from the HMACSHA1 value.
For instance, calculating the HOTP value modulo 10^8 to build an 8
digit HOTP value would reduce the probability of success of the
adversary from sv/10^6 to sv/10^8.
This could give the opportunity to improve usability, e.g., by
increasing T and/or s, while still achieving a better security
overall. For instance, s = 10 and 10v/10^8 = v/10^7 < v/10^6 which
is the theoretical optimum for 6digit code when s = 1.
E.2. Alphanumeric Values
Another option is to use AZ and 09 values; or rather a subset of 32
symbols taken from the alphanumerical alphabet in order to avoid any
confusion between characters: 0, O, and Q as well as l, 1, and I are
very similar, and can look the same on a small display.
The immediate consequence is that the security is now in the order of
sv/32^6 for a 6digit HOTP value and sv/32^8 for an 8digit HOTP
value.
32^6 > 10^9 so the security of a 6alphanumeric HOTP code is slightly
better than a 9digit HOTP value, which is the maximum length of an
HOTP code supported by the proposed algorithm.
32^8 > 10^12 so the security of an 8alphanumeric HOTP code is
significantly better than a 9digit HOTP value.
Depending on the application and token/interface used for displaying
and entering the HOTP value, the choice of alphanumeric values could
be a simple and efficient way to improve security at a reduced cost
and impact on users.
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E.3. Sequence of HOTP Values
As we suggested for the resynchronization to enter a short sequence
(say, 2 or 3) of HOTP values, we could generalize the concept to the
protocol, and add a parameter L that would define the length of the
HOTP sequence to enter.
Per default, the value L SHOULD be set to 1, but if security needs to
be increased, users might be asked (possibly for a short period of
time, or a specific operation) to enter L HOTP values.
This is another way, without increasing the HOTP length or using
alphanumeric values to tighten security.
Note: The system MAY also be programmed to request synchronization on
a regular basis (e.g., every night, twice a week, etc.) and to
achieve this purpose, ask for a sequence of L HOTP values.
E.4. A CounterBased Resynchronization Method
In this case, we assume that the client can access and send not only
the HOTP value but also other information, more specifically, the
counter value.
A more efficient and secure method for resynchronization is possible
in this case. The client application will not send the HOTPclient
value only, but the HOTPclient and the related Cclient counter
value, the HOTP value acting as a message authentication code of the
counter.
Resynchronization Counterbased Protocol (RCP)

The server accepts if the following are all true, where Cserver is
its own current counter value:
1) Cclient >= Cserver
2) Cclient  Cserver <= s
3) Check that HOTP client is valid HOTP(K,CClient)
4) If true, the server sets C to Cclient + 1 and client is
authenticated
In this case, there is no need for managing a lookahead window
anymore. The probability of success of the adversary is only v/10^6
or roughly v in one million. A side benefit is obviously to be able
to increase s "infinitely" and therefore improve the system usability
without impacting the security.
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This resynchronization protocol SHOULD be used whenever the related
impact on the client and server applications is deemed acceptable.
E.5. Data Field
Another interesting option is the introduction of a Data field, which
would be used for generating the OneTime Password values: HOTP (K,
C, [Data]) where Data is an optional field that can be the
concatenation of various pieces of identityrelated information,
e.g., Data = Address  PIN.
We could also use a Timer, either as the only moving factor or in
combination with the Counter  in this case, e.g., Data = Timer,
where Timer could be the UNIXtime (GMT seconds since 1/1/1970)
divided by some factor (8, 16, 32, etc.) in order to give a specific
time step. The time window for the OneTime Password is then equal
to the time step multiplied by the resynchronization parameter as
defined before. For example, if we take 64 seconds as the time step
and 7 for the resynchronization parameter, we obtain an acceptance
window of +/ 3 minutes.
Using a Data field opens for more flexibility in the algorithm
implementation, provided that the Data field is clearly specified.
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RFC 4226 HOTP Algorithm December 2005
Authors' Addresses
David M'Raihi (primary contact for sending comments and questions)
VeriSign, Inc.
685 E. Middlefield Road
Mountain View, CA 94043 USA
Phone: 16504263832
EMail: dmraihi@verisign.com
Mihir Bellare
Dept of Computer Science and Engineering, Mail Code 0114
University of California at San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
EMail: mihir@cs.ucsd.edu
Frank Hoornaert
VASCO Data Security, Inc.
Koningin Astridlaan 164
1780 Wemmel, Belgium
EMail: frh@vasco.com
David Naccache
Gemplus Innovation
34 rue Guynemer, 92447,
Issy les Moulineaux, France
and
Information Security Group,
Royal Holloway,
University of London, Egham,
Surrey TW20 0EX, UK
EMail: david.naccache@gemplus.com, david.naccache@rhul.ac.uk
Ohad Ranen
Aladdin Knowledge Systems Ltd.
15 Beit Oved Street
Tel Aviv, Israel 61110
EMail: Ohad.Ranen@ealaddin.com
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RFC 4226 HOTP Algorithm December 2005
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