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Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2015 03:20:34 +0530
From: Donghoon Chang <>
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] PHC status report

Dear Alexander,

Thank you so much for reply. Now I am feeling calm :-) I am sorry for
trying to cross the line to you and everybody.

Now I understand more about the situation of the PHC panel.
There is a time limit of the PHC and the panel members are volunteers.

But, from submitter's point of view, each submitter may expect to receive
sound report with plentiful paragraphs, since each submitter spent
plentiful amount of time for that. At least, the panel should be able to
provide the comparison among candidates in terms of security and
performance, not based on additional features such as elegance, etc.

So, I request that the PHC Panel may prepare the public report, especially,
at least for non-finalists. How discouraging it is to write three to four
words only for the comment for designers of non-finalists! I would like to
expect a comment like this:

"We could not choose X algorithm with some reason though X algorithm has
many good features!"

- Donghoon

2015-02-12 1:57 GMT+05:30 Solar Designer <>:

> Edit: I wrote the below before I saw Donghoon's follow-up posting, and
> JP's and Samuel's replies.  In fact, I am sending this without having
> carefully read those newer postings yet.
> Hi,
> This is my personal reply.  Not speaking on behalf of the entire panel,
> even though I (obviously) do refer to the panel as "we" here.
> (In fact, the same applies to my other postings in here, so I will omit
> this disclaimer from this point on.)
> On Wed, Feb 11, 2015 at 09:16:30PM +0530, Donghoon Chang wrote:
> > In the beginning of the competition, the criteria were clearly mentioned
> > from the following link.
> >
> >
> >
> > However, as mentioned from another following link, when 9 candidates have
> > been recently selected, new criteria, which are totally unrelated to the
> > original ones, were added.
> >
> >
> >
> > The two new criteria are added as follows:
> >
> > 1. Elegance of design
> To me, this one is closely related to the "Simplicity" criteria listed
> on the call for submissions.  Specifically, I think "Overall clarity of
> the scheme (design symmetries, modularity, etc.)" and "Use of other
> primitives or constructions internally (the fewer, the better)" (from
> the call for submissions) are consistent with "Elegance and simplicity
> of design" on the status report.
> > 2. Originality and innovation
> The call for submissions also says: "Submitters are encouraged to
> propose innovative constructions [...]".  While this is said (right)
> below the bulleted list of criteria, rather than explicitly included
> among them, it is nevertheless right there in the same text.
> > I wondered who added these new criteria, which were never mentioned
> before,
> > without the request of any permission of changing it internally and
> > publicly.
> IIRC, this wasn't specifically discussed, but as far as I'm aware we
> listed "Originality and innovation" as an explicit bullet point on the
> report after examining past discussions and the rationale given by some
> panel members in favor of some candidates.  In particular, Makwa was
> selected in part for its "Unique design supporting delegation" (quoting
> the report), and Parallel in part for "Original distinction of
> sequential vs. parallel cost".  Also, a panel member found some aspects
> of Schvrch innovative, which worked in favor of this submission, but
> obviously not to a sufficient extent for us to select it (as it has
> fatal shortcomings).  These are 3 occasions that I recall.
> ... Oh, with grep I just found 4 more occasions, for 4 other candidates
> (not affecting the final selection, as it happened).  So yes, some panel
> members were considering this aspect, along with many others.
> I see nothing wrong in us "promoting" an "encouragement" into a bullet
> point when listing the selection criteria on the report.
> > Due to the above new criteria, some of the candidates were not selected.
> This doesn't match my understanding.  While any of the listed criteria
> could have resulted in a candidate (not) getting selected, in this
> competition I think only the selection of Makwa and Parallel was
> (positively) influenced, and not at the expense of not selecting any
> other candidate (since these two had no direct competitors).
> I guess you might be referring to Gambit's and RIG's "similarity to
> Catena" (as per the report), but the similarity isn't a drawback per se.
> (Note that for the non-finalist TwoCats, the report mentions
> "Interesting mix of ideas", which obviously is not a drawback as well.
> For all three of Gambit, RIG, and TwoCats the phrase starts with
> "<Something OK>, but ...")
> Rather, the panel's assessment that Catena, Gambit, and RIG compete for
> the same use cases and are using similar defenses provides a baseline
> for comparison.  Gambit and RIG didn't appear to have significant
> advantages over Catena while appearing less mature (and Gambit had what
> many considered a drawback: Keccak).  That alone is sufficient for the
> panel to prefer Catena over them, without the (possible) lack of
> "originality and innovation" playing enough of a role to affect the
> (non-)selection.
> Basically, if you wanted to convince the panel to select Gambit or RIG,
> you needed to make a clear case on why you think(?) they're more
> suitable than Catena.  Well, or someone else could have.  As they were,
> they appeared somewhat less suitable.  Similarly, Catena would benefit
> in the competition from having comparisons showing it being in some ways
> more suitable than Gambit and RIG.  Luckily for it, the panel felt that
> way as-is, due to Catena's maturity and Gambit's use of Keccak.
> (I hope it's OK for me to address Gambit and RIG at once like that.)
> > Directly speaking, the new criteria were secretly created, which is
> against
> > the rule of competition, to kick out those candidates,
> I can see how you could arrive at that conclusion, but I don't share it.
> > which is unfair
> Maybe it would be, or maybe not.  I wouldn't see much of a problem in
> the panel making unanticipated decisions, if we had to, and announcing
> them (the earlier, the better - but obviously they can't be announced
> before being made).
> > and even a crime.
> Now you're crossing a line. :-(
> > Another main issue of the PHC is that 9 candidates were chosen without
> > providing comparison results with proper metrics, which are against all
> > other competitions such as AES, SHA-3, Caesar Competitons, etc. The
> > competition should be scientifically based on proper metrics with clear
> > comparison (not based on voting out of favoritism), according to the
> > criteria which were given in the beginning.
> I think PHC is rather unique in that:
> 1. The performance ratio on defenders' systems vs. ASICs can at best be
> guesstimated, yet needs to play a role in selection.
> 2. The implementations submitted so far are often very far from optimal,
> and in fact a submitter complained that we were asking for any
> implementations at this time at all.  Just where would the optimized
> implementations for a fair comparison necessarily come from at this
> stage in the competition?  And how confident would we be that similar
> effort went into optimizing one vs. another?  And that they got
> similarly close to being optimal?  Ditto about attack-optimized
> implementations, for multiple platforms.
> 3. TMTO affects the performance ratio, but there's no confidence in how
> close to an optimal attack for a given scheme we have arrived.
> 4. This is first such competition, and it appears to receive less
> attention than AES and SHA-3 so far, and with lower "stakes" by the
> submitters too.  (It may be a good thing that the stakes are lower,
> given the accusations you make.)  Hence, less incentive for the
> submitters and for third-parties to produce multiple optimized
> implementations for various platforms.
> I hope that now that we have 9 post-tweaks finalists instead of 24 or 22
> pre-tweaks candidates, these 9 will receive extra attention, including
> more implementations for us to benchmark.
> You, the submission authors, could have done your part in providing more
> performance comparisons.
> If we were judging by performance numbers of current implementations,
> with "non-performance" criteria not considered, we could probably select
> TwoCats as the winner now.  A very good candidate in my opinion, but
> not to the exclusion of all others, which have other good properties.
> Overall, I think some subjective judgment by panel members was needed.
> Even if we could have near-optimal performance numbers for current
> hardware platforms (both defense and attack), we'd need to extrapolate
> into the future - and that's subjective.
> > Since I was one of internal evaluators of SHA-3 candidates as a guest
> > researcher of NIST for three years, it more seems to me that the
> procedure
> > of the PHC looks immature to me.
> Being the first such contest, it isn't mature.
> > Even the PHC panel's recent selecting
> > procedure undermines the dignity of the PHC, the PHC panel, submitters,
> and
> > even crypto community. Please think it seriously.
> This is a rather strong statement, but let's keep in mind that this
> bitterness comes from a non-finalist co-author.  It is understandable as
> such, given the unfortunate shallow evaluation of some submissions and
> the brevity of the report.
> It is unclear what a better selection procedure would be.  I gave some
> reasons above why "a scientific comparison using proper metrics"
> wouldn't have worked at this stage with the effort the submitters and
> third-parties have invested and the panel could afford to invest, and
> why it couldn't have been the only input to the decision-making anyway.
> Do you have a suggestion that would actually have worked?
> > I hope that the PHC panel might accept and correct their mistake and make
> > every effort to restore our dignity including everyone participating in
> the
> > PHC.
> Do you have specific suggestions?
> Here's mine: discuss everything on the public list.  Given you having
> crossed the line, this is starting to feel a little dangerous, though. ;-)
> Alexander

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