I was reading some Restic documentation and at one point it recommends using a program called “Automated Password Generator “ (apg) to generate strong passwords. I wanted to learn more about it, so I ran man apg, where I learned about a related program called apgbfm, which

is used to manage Bloom filter that is used to restrict password generation in APG pasword [sic] generation software. Usage of the Bloom filter allows to speed up password check for large dictionaries and has some other benefits.

This reminded me of my project Medic, which, among other things, can check a KeePass database’s passwords against the very large list of breached passwords stored in HaveIBeenPwned.

Medic currently takes from 1 to 5 minutes to check a KeePass database’s passwords against the text file. Naturally, I wondered if I could use a Bloom filter to cut this time down.

A foothold

I posted about Bloom filters on Mastodon and Graydon Hoare pointed me to this paper, which details an new and improved version of a Bloom filter called a “binary fuse filter”. Hoare also pointed me to a C++ project on GitHub called FilterPassword, which, amazingly, tests a binary fuse filter against other filters on the HaveIBeenPwned list of passwords! What luck!

I haven’t written C++ since high school, so I had trouble even grokking the FilterPassword code, but thankfully I easily found a Rust crate called xorf that offers an API for a variety of these filters, including the latest and greatest binary fuse filter.

What is a binary fuse filter?

I’m not a mathematician, so I won’t pretend that I’ve already learned how these filters work. But I do understand the idea behind them:

  1. Create the “filter” by pushing a large array/Vector of elements into it.
  2. Now you can ask the filter “Do you contain element ‘foo’”? If it says “no” it’s 100% that foo is not in the filter. If it says “yes” it’s more like a “maybe”, with a varying probability of that “maybe” being a “no” (but never 100%). In other words, if never has false negatives, but sometimes has false positives.

The key advantage is that these “contains” look-ups are significantly faster than if we ran contains on a normal Vector or hash.

So here was my idea for using one of these filters with my Medic program:

  1. Make a filter of all the breached password hash digests
  2. Check all the given KeePass entry digests against the filter
  3. If Medic gets all “No”s, we’re golden– we know none of the user’s passwords are in the breached list, so we can quickly print “No passwords breached” and exit (hopefully much faster than the current checking code). If we get some “Maybes”, we still have to go check those more thoroughly the old way, but at least it’ll be fewer entries to check.

Some code

From the xorf crate docs, I found this relevant example. For testing purposes, I adapted it to use the first 10.4 million lines of the HIBP password file.

One catch I encountered is that the way xorf set up its binary fuse filter, it only excepts elements of 64-bit unsigned integers (u64 in Rust speak). This is an issue since each password digest from HIBP is given in the form of a SHA-1 digest, which is by definition 120 bits.

So I wrote a function that takes the first 16 characters of a SHA-1 hash digest and converts that into a u64:

/// Takes a SHA1 hash digest as a slice and converts its first
/// 16 characters into a u64
fn truncate_hash_to_u64(hash: &str) -> u64 {
    let truncated_hash = hash[..16].to_string();
    let as_bytes: [u8; 8] = hex::decode(truncated_hash)
        .expect("slice with incorrect length");
    u64::from_be_bytes(as_bytes) // I kind of guessed that big-endian (network) byte order was OK here?

I figure if the first 16 characters of the SHA-1 hash match, it’s OK calling that a “maybe”.

With that understood, here’s the entire toy Rust program I wrote:

use core::convert::TryFrom;
use rand::prelude::*;
use std::fs::File;
use std::io::BufRead;
use std::io::BufReader;
use xorf::{BinaryFuse8, Filter};

// From https://docs.rs/xorf/latest/xorf/struct.BinaryFuse32.html
fn main() {
    let mut rng = thread_rng();
    const SAMPLE_SIZE: usize = 5_000_000;

    let hash_file = "../hibp/pwned-passwords-sha1-ordered-by-count-v8.txt";
    let f = File::open(hash_file).expect("Unable to open file");
    let file = BufReader::new(&f);
    let mut keys = vec![];
    for line in file.lines() {
        if keys.len() >= SAMPLE_SIZE {
    let filter = BinaryFuse8::try_from(&keys).unwrap();

    // no false negatives
    for key in keys {

    // bits per entry
    let bpe = (filter.len() as f64) * 8.0 / (SAMPLE_SIZE as f64);
    assert!(bpe < 9.1, "Bits per entry is {}", bpe);

    // false positive rate
    let false_positives: usize = (0..SAMPLE_SIZE)
        .map(|_| rng.gen())
        .filter(|n| filter.contains(n))
    let fp_rate: f64 = (false_positives * 100) as f64 / SAMPLE_SIZE as f64;
    assert!(fp_rate < 0.406, "False positive rate is {}", fp_rate);

    // More filter tests...

    // a SHA1 hash of a definitely breached password:
    let hash_a = "9AC20922B054316BE23842A5BCA7D69F29F69D77";
    // a SHA1 hash of a definitely NOT breached password:
    let hash_b = "D909947C92C711A285AC8480A116A20CA20460B6";
    println!("Truncated hash_a is {}", truncate_hash_to_u64(hash_a));

    if filter.contains(&truncate_hash_to_u64(hash_a)) {
        println!("hash_a might be breached");
    } else {
        println!("hash_a is definitely safe");
    if filter.contains(&truncate_hash_to_u64(hash_b)) {
        println!("hash_b might be breached");
    } else {
        println!("hash_b is definitely safe");

fn truncate_hash_to_u64(hash: &str) -> u64 {
    let truncated_hash = hash[..16].to_string();
    let as_bytes: [u8; 8] = hex::decode(truncated_hash)
        .expect("slice with incorrect length");

This runs and finishes correctly and pretty quickly (1.927 seconds), which is pretty awesome! But it’s of course only checking the 2 hard-coded sample passwords against 5 million digests. Version 8 of the HIBP password database has 847,223,402 passwords in it. If it takes 1.927 seconds to check against 5 million, that’s 5.4 minutes for all 613 million, and plus we still have to go back to check any and all “maybes” we find.

An aside: A little shortcut?

While I was working out that truncate_hash_to_u64 function, I had an earlier version that just used the first 13 characters of the SHA1 digest, but did not require a hex decode call.

fn truncate_hash_to_u64(hash: &str) -> u64 {
    let truncated_hash = hash[..13].to_string();
    u64::from_str_radix(&truncated_hash, 32).unwrap()

I’d guess that using 3 fewer hexadecimal characters means there’s a slightly higher chance of getting a false positive, but it may ultimately make the overall process faster.

Putting this code into Medic

Undeterred, I opened Medic and adapted the code above into the project.

A note here: In order not to to use too much system memory, Medic doesn’t read all of the password digests into memory at a time. Instead, it reads just 10.4 million password digests into system memory at a time. Each of these batches of 10.4 million is called a “chunk” in the code. I figured that was also a good size for a filter(?), so I would be making a filter of each chunk, then checking every entry against that filter in search of “maybes”.

To keep things simple, I wanted to use a binary fuse filter to return a bool, where false meant there is definitely no matches found in the given chunk (i.e. none of the passwords in this chunk were found in the breached password file) and where true meant there was at least one “maybe.”

First, I inserted an if statement at the top of my check_this_chunk function to act as a sort of short circuit for whenever the filer returned all “no”s (in other words, no “maybe”s):

fn check_this_chunk(entries: &[Entry], chunk: &[String]) -> io::Result<Vec<Entry>> {
    if are_there_maybes_in_this_chunk(entries, chunk) == false {
        // Nothing to check more thoroughly in this chunk!
        eprintln!("No maybes in this chunk. I get to take a shortcut!");
        return Ok(vec![]);
    } else {
        eprintln!("Found at least 1 maybe in this chunk, so checking it more thoroughly.");

    let mut definitely_breached_entries = Vec::new();
    for line in chunk {
        let this_hash = &line[..40];
        for entry in entries {
            if this_hash == entry.digest {

Then I adapted the toy program code above to write the are_there_maybes_in_this_chunk function:

use xorf::{BinaryFuse8, Filter};
fn are_there_maybes_in_this_chunk(entries: &[Entry], chunk: &[String]) -> bool {
    let mut keys = Vec::new();
    for line in chunk {
        let hash_as_decimal: u64 = truncate_hash_to_u64(&line);

    let filter = BinaryFuse8::try_from(&keys).unwrap();
    for entry in entries {
        if filter.contains(&truncate_hash_to_u64(&entry.digest)) {
            return true; // got one maybe, so let's return true and end this 

This seems to work, in that tests pass. And you can see this code yourself on GitHub on the binaryfuse branch.

But it was actually slower than the old Medic code that just plows through each chunk!

Informal benchmarks

My informal benchmarking of filter vs. no filter involved running

cargo test --release can_check_keepass_db_against_full_haveibeenpwned_local_list_of_hashes --no-run && time cargo test --release can_check_keepass_db_against_full_haveibeenpwned_local_list_of_hashes

Here are some quick results:

First, let’s get a baseline read against the current version on Medic (which doesn’t use a filter):

Without binary fuse filter (Medic's main branch); chunk_size set to 10_416_666:
real	3m5.987s
user	2m34.868s
sys	0m20.961s

(FYI, on other runs, the real time ranged from 2m34s to 3m45s.)

Now let’s do a run with our binary fuse code:

Using binary fuse filter (chunk_size = 10_416_666):
real	7m20.932s
user	6m3.067s
sys	0m44.298s

Interestingly, when I switched to the 13-character u64-truncating function, I got better times from the binary fuse code:

Using binary fuse filter; 13-character truncating; chunk_size = 10_416_666:
real	6m11.824s
user	4m58.728s
sys	0m44.431s

Next, I experimented with different chunk sizes, but 6m11s remained my best time with the filter.

Using binary fuse filter; 13-character truncating; chunk_size = 208_333:
real	6m17.165s
user	4m49.884s
sys	0m36.258s

Using binary fuse filter; 13-character truncating; chunk_size = 41_666_666:
real	6m47.406s
user	5m20.949s
sys	0m47.862s

As you can see, none of these tweaks get the binary fuse implementation better than twice as long as the straight-forward, check-them-all method currently in use on the main branch of the project. This held even when I varied the chunk size a bit in either direction.

At this point I’m not sure why this method is so much slower. Obviously if we get any “maybe”s in a given chunk, we’ve got to iterate through every line in the chunk again to do the “thorough” check. But the test database doesn’t have that many breached passwords in it – the majority of chunks should have are_there_maybes_in_this_chunk == false, and thus give us that promised speed-up.

I think the biggest cost is building each filter, rather than that contains calls against them. This is part of the reason I chose the BinaryFuse8 filter, rather than 16-bit or 32-bit, since it’s my understanding that the 8-bit version has the quickest built time (at cost of slightly more false positives).

Little improvements I could make to the binary fuse implementation?

  • Give each Entry object a truncated_digest field, so I only have to compute those once per entry. But I don’t think this will be a game-changer. Basically turn if filter.contains(&truncate_hash_to_u64(&entry.digest)) into if filter.contains(&entry.truncated_digest) {.
  • Could also try to further improve the truncate_hash_to_u64 function somehow…
  • I could have the filter function pass back a Vector of Entries that are maybe-breached, so that the thorough check only has to check those, but again I don’t think that’ll 2x or 10x the speed.

Improvements I could make to Medic that don’t directly involve the filter

I could explore threading with Radon or using a HashSet rather than a Vector for each chunk.

I did a quick try with HashSets (and no binary fuse filter) and I’m getting times between 8 and 10 minutes. I think the big slow-down is inserting into the HashSet, rather than the contains calls.

Is this in fact a data-reading speed problem?

Part of me now thinks that most of the check time is taken up by reading 847M records into system memory, in chunks or not in chunks. To speed this up, I think I can (a) change the file format of the listed of breached databases (here’s an example where they used a SQLite database) and/or (b) use some trick like memmap to not have to read the entire file into system memory.

Pausing for now

I’ll keep playing with this this week, cuz I think it’s interesting stuff (and if that C++ example is anything to go on, I chose a good tool for my problem).

If you spot any mistakes that are slowing this code down, or have any tips or ideas or questions, let me know on Mastodon.