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Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2016 09:18:41 -0700
From: Andy Lutomirski <>
To: discussions <>
Subject: Re: [PHC] hash encryption

On Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 9:38 PM, Solar Designer <> wrote:
> On Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 09:08:41PM -0700, Andy Lutomirski wrote:
>> My recollection of the different security properties of different numbers
>> of Luby-Rackoff rounds is a bit vague, but they have nothing to do with
>> bits of security or work factor.  Can you justify them?
> I found Thomas Pornin's answer here helpful:
> Regarding 7 rounds for 256-bit security:
> In other words, 128-bit security for a 256-bit block is what
> Luby-Rackoff's usual 3 or 4 rounds provide (it's 4 for chosen ciphertext
> attacks, which might or might not be relevant here).
> Almost 256-bit security for a 256-bit block is achieved at 7 rounds, as
> shown in that other paper above.  I did not verify their results.

It seems like it would be simpler to pick a round count and stick with
it regardless of key length, especially if performance doesn't really

>> IMO the error case should not result in the identity function.  Abort or
>> memset-to-zero would be better.
> For an error case, sure.  But this isn't meant to be an error case: it
> is how we typically use password hashes now, without encryption.

I guess that makes sense.  If the key is blank, you don't expect any security.

>> Hashing the key length in before the key would avoid needing to think about
>> related-key attacks that might lose you one round or so of security under
>> some circumstances.  Using a short-key variant as an oracle against a
>> long-key variant would be nasty
> That's an interesting thought.  SHA-256 already hashes in the full
> message length in bits, and with only the key being of variable length
> here this feels sufficient.  Do you think it might not be, and why?

Suppose we ignore the round count variability and further weaken the
scheme by forcing either one or two rounds (obviously insecure).  Then
imagine we have two related keys k1 and k2.  k2 = k1 || padding1 || a
few more bits.  That is, k2 is what you get when you extend k1 by the
Merkle-Damgard padding you'd have if you fed k1 into your cipher
followed by some more bits.  (IOW this is a classic length-extension
setup, assuming I did it right.)

Now an attacker can use the block cipher under k1 as an oracle to
learn hash values under k1, which gives the attacker the entire
internal state of the round function prior to hashing in the extra
bits in k2.

This is obviously a useless attack as is (weird related key assumption
and only works directly on one or two rounds), but I can imagine
adaptive chosen plaintext/ciphertext variants extending to an extra
round or two.

The possibility of this type of attack would go away completely if you
used a wide-pipe hash or if you hashed in the key length.

> Hashing in the full key length may be tricky to implement because it'd
> require converting it to an endianness-independent layout first.  I am
> trying to avoid cluttering the code with unneeded(?) stuff like this.
> Round number was much easier since those numbers are definitely small
> enough to fit in 1 byte, and this is a requirement for the Luby-Rackoff
> proof (independent functions for each round).
> BTW, I am considering changing:
>                 SHA256_Update(&ctx, &round, 1);
> to:
>                 {
>                         uint8_t round_bytes[4] = {round};
>                         SHA256_Update(&ctx, round_bytes, sizeof(round_bytes));
>                 }

Off-topic, but I recently learned the distressing fact that uint8_t is
not specified as a "character" type and is therefore not special wrt
aliasing :(


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