Cryptography la versíon española la version française


Principles of Cryptography

  • Man-in-the-middle attack: This attack is relevant for cryptographic communication and key exchange protocols. The idea is that when two parties, A and B, are exchanging keys for secure communication (e.g., using Diffie-Hellman), an adversary positions himself between A and B on the communication line. The adversary then intercepts the signals that A and B send to each other, and performs a key exchange with A and B separately. A and B will end up using a different key, each of which is known to the adversary. The adversary can then decrypt any communication from A with the key he shares with A, and then resends the communication to B by encrypting it again with the key he shares with B. Both A and B will think that they are communicating securely, but in fact the adversary is hearing everything.

    The usual way to prevent the man-in-the-middle attack is to use a public key cryptosystem capable of providing digital signatures. For set up, the parties must know each others public keys in advance. After the shared secret has been generated, the parties send digital signatures of it to each other. The man-in-the-middle can attempt to forge these signatures, but fails because he cannot fake the signatures.

    This solution is sufficient in the presence of a way to securely distribute public keys. One such way is a certificate hierarchy such as X.509. It is used for example in IPSec.

  • Correlation between the secret key and the output of the cryptosystem is the main source of information to the cryptanalyst. In the easiest case, the information about the secret key is directly leaked by the cryptosystem. More complicated cases require studying the correlation (basically, any relation that would not be expected on the basis of chance alone) between the observed (or measured) information about the cryptosystem and the guessed key information.

    For example, in linear (differential) attacks against block ciphers the cryptanalyst studies the known (chosen) plaintext and the observed ciphertext. Guessing some of the key bits of the cryptosystem the analyst determines by correlation between the plaintext and the ciphertext whether he/she guessed correctly. This can be repeated, and has many variations.

    The differential cryptanalysis introduced by Eli Biham and Adi Shamir in late 1980's was the first attack that fully utilized this idea against block ciphers (especially against DES). Later Mitsuru Matsui came up with linear cryptanalysis which was even more effective against DES. More recently, new attacks using similar ideas have been developed.

    Perhaps the best introduction to this material is the proceedings of EUROCRYPT and CRYPTO throughout the 1990's. There can be found Mitsuru Matsui's discussion of linear cryptanalysis of DES, and the ideas of truncated differentials by Lars Knudsen (for example, IDEA cryptanalysis). The book by Eli Biham and Adi Shamir about the differential cryptanalysis of DES is the "classical" work on this subject.

    The correlation idea is fundamental to cryptography and several researchers have tried to construct cryptosystems which are provably secure against such attacks. For example, Knudsen and Nyberg have studied provable security against differential cryptanalysis.

  • Attack against or using the underlying hardware: in the last few years as more and more small mobile crypto devices have come into widespread use, a new category of attacks has become relevant which aim directly at the hardware implementation of the cryptosystem.

    The attacks use the data from very fine measurements of the crypto device doing, say, encryption and compute key information from these measurements. The basic ideas are then closely related to those in other correlation attacks. For instance, the attacker guesses some key bits and attempts to verify the correctness of the guess by studying correlation against his measurements.

    Several attacks have been proposed such as using careful timings of the device, fine measurements of the power consumption, and radiation patterns. These measurements can be used to obtain the secret key or other kinds information stored on the device.

    This attack is generally independent of the used cryptographical algorithms and can be applied to any device that is not explicitly protected against it.

  • Faults in cryptosystems can lead to cryptanalysis and even the discovery of the secret key. The interest in cryptographical devices lead to the discovery that some algorithms behaved very badly with the introduction of small faults in the internal computation.

    For example, the usual implementation of RSA private key operations are very suspectible to fault attacks. It has been shown that by causing one bit of error at a suitable point can reveal the factorization of the modulus (i.e. it reveals the private key).

    Similar ideas have been applied to a wide range of algorithms and devices. It is thus necessary that cryptographical devices are designed to be highly resistant against faults (and against malicious introduction of faults by cryptanalysts).

There are many other cryptographic attacks and cryptanalysis techniques. However, these are probably the most important ones for an application designer. Anyone contemplating to design a new cryptosystem should have a much deeper understanding of these issues. Good places to start looking for information are the excellent books: "Handbook of Applied Cryptography" by Menezes, van Oorschot, and Vanstone and "Applied Cryptography" by Schneier.

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adapted by Rafal Swiecki, p. eng. email
November, 2004
This document is in the public domain.

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