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Generating passwords for Mosquitto MQTT broker using PHP
Jan 13th, 2017 by miki

Here is a delayed writeup of a my involvement in a question posted to the liberally licensed MQTT broker (server) Mosquitto’s developer list list about how to generate authentication tokens programmatically. It kicked the curious cat in me which propelled a journey into the backyards of the C code for the mosquitto_password tool which normally is used for this purpose. This resulted in the proof of concept PHP implementation outlined in my answer on the list which is reproduced below.

MQTT (once Message Queue Telemetry Transport) is a lightweight publish/subscribe protocol intended for communication between low power, low bandwidth embedded devices. These days it is commonly hyped as a holy grail in the religion of IoT. The protocol was originally developed by IBM but is now a standard overseen by the OASIS standardization organization which also has the OpenDocument standard (ODF, think Open/Libre-Office) under its wings. According to Wikipedia MQTT is used behind the scenes of Facebook Messenger, OpenStack and Amazon’s IoT services.

For further practical use of the concept outlined you would need to produce a random 16 byte base64 encoded salt to feed into the hasher, that could be done using something like; $salt_base64=base64_encode(openssl_random_pseudo_bytes(12));

If your need a shrink wrapped solution to this you could try to ping me.

Hi Srinivas.

On 2016-07-26 12:49, Srinivas Pokala wrote:
> Username successfully created using linux command with: 
> "mosquitto_passwd /etc/mosquitto/passwd guest".
> I need to create same with php or javascript how?

Looking at the source of mosquitto_passwd
(https://github.com/eclipse/mosquitto/blob/master/src/mosquitto_passwd.c)
basically all it does to generate the resulting line you see in the
password file is:

1) draw a random 12 byte binary salt
2) hash the combination of password and salt using sha512
3) write username, base64 encoded salt, base64 encoded hash in one line

A PHP implementation would use something like this ($salt is fixed for
demonstration purposes, it ought to be random in production);

---
$username="Bitten";
$password="Insect";
$salt_base64="spicychilinstuff";
$salt=base64_decode($salt_base64);
$hash=hash("sha512",$password.$salt, true);
$hash_base64=base64_encode($hash);
echo($username.":$6$".$salt_base64."$".$hash_base64."\n");
---

Comparing against mosquitto_passwd using a one-liner (uses the base64
salt from output to be able to correlate the two);

---
$ mosquitto_passwd -b ~/mosq_passwd_test Bitten Insect
$ cat ~/mosq_passwd_test
Bitten:$6$mfJ0Eq3rIDLKG33r$gkiIlz80JA6Pq9OtGhasIsx7L2vf0APdZH77+thmNW2Zp5vE1d/dAi5TjbfO9mZpKHLh38Oem1ic072rSO328g==

$ php -r '$username="Bitten"; $password="Insect";
$salt_base64="mfJ0Eq3rIDLKG33r"; $salt=base64_decode($salt_base64);
$hash=hash("sha512",$password.$salt, true);
$hash_base64=base64_encode($hash);
echo($username.":$6$".$salt_base64."$".$hash_base64."\n");'
Bitten:$6$mfJ0Eq3rIDLKG33r$gkiIlz80JA6Pq9OtGhasIsx7L2vf0APdZH77+thmNW2Zp5vE1d/dAi5TjbfO9mZpKHLh38Oem1ic072rSO328g==
---

As can be seen, the PHP generated password line are identical to the
mosquitto_passwd generated.

I have also successfully tested authentication against the mosquitto
broker with PHP generated users. One caveat is that the above can
generate a salt of arbitrary length, but the broker must see a 12 byte
binary salt (16 byte base64) or authentication will fail.

Note however, that this hasn't been tested on more than a few
username/password pairs, there might be other issues lurking.

Regards,
-- 
Mikkel
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