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Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2014 22:37:03 +0200
From: Thomas Pornin <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] A review per day - Makwa

On Fri, Sep 05, 2014 at 01:40:45PM -0400, Bill Cox wrote:
> The concern I am working through right now is trying to convince
> myself that Makwa will have good long cycle lengths when squaring over
> and over, with effectively zero chance of getting a weak cycle where
> finding the square root is many times easier.

If you can find small cycles then you can factor the modulus.

Indeed, choose a random x modulo N. Probability that x is a quadratic
residue modulo p is about 1/2. Probability that x is a quadratic residue
modulo q is also about 1/2. You can compute the Jacobi symbol of x relatively
to n, which will be 1 or -1; the computation is easy (see the Wikipedia
page: ). We are here
interested in values x such that the Jacobi symbol (x|n) = -1: these
are exactly the values which are a square modulo p but not modulo q,
or are a square modulo q but not modulo p. Probability of a random x to
be such a value is about 1/2, so finding one is easy.

Suppose that such a x generates a small cycle. You can them compute
x^2, x^4, x^8... and so on, until you complete the cycle: you end up
with a value y which is such that y^2 = x^2 modulo N. However, y is
a quadratic residue, but x is not, so y != x; and since (x|n) = -1,
x cannot be equal to -y either. The consequence is that y-x is a
multiple of p and not q, or of q and not p. A simple GCD computation
between y-x and N reveals p or q, and N is factored.

Therefore, if the probability of hitting a small cycle is not
negligible, then you have an efficient factoring algorithm. Since
integer factorization is hard for 2048-bit RSA-like moduli, small cycles
will not be reachable in practice, even if you try hard.

The notion of "safe prime" has been coined at various times, not always
for the same values. Usually, a prime p is called "safe" if (p-1)/2 is
also prime (note that it is not exactly the same meaning as the one you
use). That specific notion of safe prime was about resistance to a
factorization algorithm known as the "p-1 method", which works for
integers N = pq where p-1 is the product of only small integers (this is
called a "smooth integer"); in that sense, selecting your prime factors
(for RSA key pair generation) to be "safe" (in that sense) guaranteed
that the "p-1 method" was not applicable.

However, this was overkill. The probability that p-1 was sufficiently
smooth for a random prime p is extremely small, far into the "utterly
negligible" area. For a 1000-bit random integer x, the average size of
the largest prime factor of x is about 624 bits (this is linked to the
Golomb-Dickman constant). I am too lazy and rushed right now to
compute the probability that, by generating random 1000-bit integers,
you hit a value whose largest prime factor is less than 2^80, but it
is negligible (less than 1 in 2^200).

In the case of short cycles for Makwa, similar results hold. I don't
have time right now to quantify it (I'll try later this week-end), but
probability of finding a small cycle will be negligible (which explains
why it does not work in practice as a factorization algorithm).

Yet another way to see it is the following: if you hit a short cycle,
short enough to be walked extensively, then you are breaking Rabin

To sum up, trying to generate p and q factors with special properties ot
ensure a lack of short cycles is mostly wasted CPU, since purely random
primes will already ensure it with overwhelming probability. You _can_
apply extra checks or insist on "safe prime" for some notion of "safe",
but the benefits will be only psychological, not cryptographic: this
won't improve security in any tangible way, but it may help you sleep at

Since I personally don't have qualms with regards to short cycles, I did
not enforced any such "safe primes" in the modulus generation tool
provided with the Makwa reference code.

	--Thomas Pornin

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