Drupal 7 allows a module to implement a different way to create a password hash. It is sufficient the module changes the content of the Drupal variable password_inc, and implement the required functions in the include file it provides.

If a module would use hash_pbkdf2(), would the hash would be more secure than the one generated from Drupal 7?

The actual code used to generate a password hash is the following. (The code is part of _password_crypt().)

  // Convert the base 2 logarithm into an integer.
  $count = 1 << $count_log2;

  // We rely on the hash() function being available in PHP 5.2+.
  $hash = hash($algo, $salt . $password, TRUE);
  do {
    $hash = hash($algo, $hash . $password, TRUE);
  } while (--$count);

1 Answer 1


If you take a look at user_hash_password, you can see that the hashing algorithm being used is SHA512. This is something different than the encryption algorithm though, which in its own could use a hashing algorithm.

The way Drupal 7 encrypts passwords actually is PBKDF2, using SHA512.

From Wikipedia:

PBKDF2 applies a pseudorandom function, such as a cryptographic hash, cipher, or HMAC to the input password or passphrase along with a salt value and repeats the process many times to produce a derived key, which can then be used as a cryptographic key in subsequent operations.

Since lots of passwords can be generated in the blink of an eye by modern hardware, it's all about making an algorithm slow. This means generating rainbow tables becomes more expensive.

The problem with SHA-algorithms is that they can still be generated quite fast on GPUs. Some algorithms, like bcrypt are slow by design, which, in my opinion, means it would be a better fit.

When the standard was written in 2000, the recommended minimum number of iterations was 1000, but the parameter is intended to be increased over time as CPU speeds increase.

In Drupal 7: assuming DRUPAL_HASH_COUNT is being used in the default encryption algorithm, 32768 iterations (1 << 15) would be used to encrypt a password. This means encrypting a password is quite slow, hence more secure (compared to just 1 iteration). You can adjust the count with the password_count_log2 variable, with a maximum value of 30 (1073741824 iterations) and a minimum value of 7 (128 iterations).

It's not worth it to change encryption algorithm; just let Drupal do its job.

Update: how it's done in D8: https://drupal.org/node/1850524

  • 2
    I'm not sure I'd say that the way Drupal 7 does it "is PBKDF2" but it is certainly very similar as you have described. Drupal 7's technique is based on the phpass project which is also used by other projects. There is some discussion of Drupal's methods on openwall.com/phpass So, I think Bart's answer is a solid one with that one caveat.
    – greggles
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 14:25

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