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Date: Sat, 11 Apr 2015 09:42:58 +0300
From: Solar Designer <>
Subject: Pufferfish


The Pufferfish specification document says "a catastrophic failure of
Pufferfish's dynamic S-boxes or modified F function would not affect
Pufferfish's cryptographic properties so long as HMAC-SHA512 remains
unbroken."  That's great, but I failed to confirm it.  Looking at both
the pseudocode and the actual C code, I see that only the salt input is
bypassed over the bcrypt-alike construction, whereas the password input
appears to only pass through that construction.  Am I missing something?

Another deviation from that claim is in how Pufferfish produces longer
than 64 bytes KDF output (when requested to do so).  You rely on your
modified Blowfish actually working reasonably for that.  Post-processing
of the output sub-blocks with HMAC-SHA512 wouldn't help if your modified
Blowfish e.g. leaves ctext unchanged between iterations of the
"for ( i = 0; i < blockcnt; i++ )" loop (e.g., because the S-boxes are
all-zero by that time).

Of course, I don't expect failures like that to actually occur, since
your modified Blowfish looks reasonable, but my point is that Pufferfish
does rely on it for its cryptographic properties.  I'm afraid you'll
have to remove that claim from the spec, unless/until further tweaks are
possibly allowed (which, as you're aware, is currently not planned).

Another concern, which may have more practical consequences, is that you
inherited bcrypt's 64 iterations loop at the end, but it's potentially a
significantly worse fit for Pufferfish than it was for bcrypt:

In bcrypt, it is just a bit wasteful: 192 Blowfish encryptions are
performed in defensive implementations, but only 64 in offensive ones.
The number 64 is presumably chosen such that by far most of the S-box
elements would be made use of.  Even for one 64-bit portion of the
output, which is what's relevant to attacks, it's 64 iterations * 16
Blowfish rounds = 1024 lookups from each of the 256-element S-boxes.
Even if the attacker deliberately chooses the most favorable one of the
three 64-bit portions of output, they can't save any significant amount
of computation (and they'd waste more computation on trying this).

In Pufferfish, the S-boxes can be made arbitrarily large.  With larger
S-boxes, t_cost may reasonably be set lower - specifically to allow for
filling larger amounts of memory.  Suppose t_cost is 0, or just one
iteration of the main loop.  Rather than run that loop normally, the
attacker runs only the first pf_expandkey() in it.  Then the attacker
proceeds with the 64 iterations loop for the first output sub-block (32
bytes from Blowfish in ECB mode, 64 bytes from SHA-512).  (It has to be
the first one, since further ones depend on it via modified ctext.)  The
attacker partially computes the second pf_expandkey() only as needed to
provide the requires S-box elements.  Eventually, the computation
terminates, while the highest required S-box index is potentially still
somewhere below the maximum.  With very large S-boxes, this can
effectively eliminate one of three calls to pf_expandkey() that are
performed at t_cost = 0.  Thus, asymptotically the running time is
reduced to 2/3 of what was intended.

The pseudocode for this attack is something like this:

 computed_to = 0
 for each of 64 iterations
  for each of 4 Blowfish blocks
   for each of 16 Blowfish rounds
    for each of 4 Blowfish S-box lookups
     if required_index > computed_to then
      computed_to = required_index
     end if
     proceed with S-box lookup
    end for
   end for
  end for
 end for

You could defeat this by using the last {L, R} pair from the main loop
in some way.  bcrypt prefers to use the idiom of "encrypt constant with
password as the key", but given that you also use SHA-512 you don't need
to be as paranoid about this.  You may also want to avoid wasting the 64
iterations on blocks other than the first one.

I thought that Pufferfish supported arbitrarily large S-boxes, but upon
a closer look I doubt it.

What's Pufferfish's maximum supported m_cost?  This suggests it's 11:

    initstate.log2_sbox_words = m_cost + 5;
    *ctx = initstate;
              ctx->S[3][( x >> ( 16 - ctx->log2_sbox_words ) ) & ( ctx->sbox_words - 1 )];

and I think it corresponds to only 2 MiB.  Is this right?

4 S-boxes * 2^16 elements * 8 bytes = 2097152

Somehow Milan benchmarked it to much larger sizes, likely invoking
undefined behavior.

BTW, I'd recommend defining the index into ctx->S[3][] differently, to
avoid needing the shift and CPU's indexed addressing or a shift+mask.
This would be quicker on some archs:

		ctx->S[3][( x >> 3 ) & ( ctx->sbox_words - 1 )];

(although it might need to be written differently for specific compilers
to optimize it fully), because it's just a mask to produce the byte
offset (but we produce the 64-bit word offset at C source level, since
that's what the array elements are).  This would also allow for higher
m_cost settings.  A drawback is that different S-boxes' index bits will
start to overlap sooner - at total m_cost corresponding to 512 KB - but
they'd have to at 4 MB anyway (or do you intentionally limit to 2 MB?)

Maybe use:

static uint64_t pf_f ( puf_ctx *ctx, uint64_t x )
    return (( ctx->S[0][( x >> ( 64 - ctx->log2_sbox_words ) )] ^
              ctx->S[1][( x >> 35 ) & ( ctx->sbox_words - 1 )]) +
              ctx->S[2][( x >> 19 ) & ( ctx->sbox_words - 1 )]) ^
              ctx->S[3][( x >> 3 ) & ( ctx->sbox_words - 1 )];

"x >> 35" may be similarly more optimal on 32-bit archs, where it'd be a
simple mask to obtain byte offset from the register holding the upper 32
bits of x.

I'm sorry I haven't looked at Pufferfish closely enough before the
tweaks period ended.


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