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RE: pay attention to P1619 so-called "Pink herrings"

Landon raised a number of very important issues. I fully share his

As I understand the encrypted-key weakness:

C[2k] = T[2k] ^ K1(K2 ^ T[2k])
C[2k+1] = T[2k+1] ^ K1(0 ^ T[2k+1])

where T[2k+1] = T[2k]^K2, and K1(x) is AES encryption with the key K1.
This gives:

C[2k+1] = T[2k] ^K2 ^ K1(T[2k] ^ K2), that is
C[2k] ^ C[2k+1] = K2

In this light, the proposed text is too vague: "it may be possible to
deduce the last 128 bits of the key from the ciphertext". It is not
only "may be", but the two ciphertext blocks directly give K2.

As Landon say, this works backward, too: T[2k] = T[2k+1]^K2. Now we need
K2 in an odd indexed plaintext block.

Landon is also right about the low-Hamming weight situation. In fact,
with any 16-byte number H, if K2^H is stored on disk, and the adjacent
block contains H, the attack still works:

C[2k] = T[2k] ^ K1(K2^H ^ T[2k])
C[2k+1] = T[2k] ^K2 ^ K1(H ^ T[2k]^K2)

These invalidate my proposed key blending function #1: it CAN
accidentally happen that K1 and K2' = K1^K2 is stored in consecutive
blocks. Thanks, Landon, for the hint!

XOR and + are too similar (they are the same if you have no carry). This
was the reason I put "may still leak" next my proposed whitening
function #3 (add a magic constant).

The danger is larger than it seems. One might think that it is not
likely to have {0,K2} or {K2,0} pairs stored accidentaly. If K2 gets
swapped to disk by the OS from the memory, some time in the past or in
the future a block of 0's could be there too, because this is the most
often seen content of memory. We don't need K2 and 0 be seen in the
same time! Even if it does not happen accidentally, an attacker could
send you a large file (image, video) with lots of 0's. If you open it,
it becomes very likely, that some 0's land in the right place, and that
night an intruder could get his missing piece of information.

To understand how realistic is an attack like this, we should consider
if and how an attacker could convince the user to check his keys, and
be exposed to the danger, that the memory will be swapped to disk in
the wrong moment. I am thinking of an email, saying that "We discovered
a security problem. If your key has its second last byte = 0xAB, the
encryption can be broken. Please verify if it affects you, and change
the key if it does." Since the email does not ask the user to disclose
anything secret, or visit a dubious website, it does not look suspect.
A super cautious user disconnects the PC from the web, reboots his
machine, loads his key to see the "danger", he even could generate a
new key, making him vulnerable to a swap-to-disk issue.

Again, this is not a real attack, but some ideas, what a real attacker
might employ. Don't you see real dangers here?

As a user you must remember some unintuitive rules: never look at your
keys with any unapproved software, don't generate keys with you own
random number generator, even if you don't trust the supplied one, etc.
Also, the encryption module has to come with specially written software
for all operation systems imaginable. It has to lock critical memory
from swapping to disk. You have to find this program when you need it:
it cannot be stored on the encrypted disk, so you need a CD. It has to
be shipped to you in a secure (tamper proof way), you have to be able
to verify the authenticity of the CD, etc. This is complex, error prone
and costs money. It is much simpler if the standard defines a key
blending scheme, which makes it safe to look at, edit, generate and
load your own keys.


> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: pay attention to P1619 so-called "Pink herrings"
> From: "Landon Noll"
> Date: Mon, May 29, 2006 6:03 pm
> To: <stds-p1619@IEEE.ORG>
> Folks,
> Let us pay attention to some of these P1619 so-called "pink herrings"!
> > I have not received any meaningful response to the issue of 
> > grandma storing her keys on an encrypted drive.  The WG must 
> > have considered it the first time it came up ...
> I have not spoken up until now because I thought a "me too"
> message would not add to the discussion until now.
> Draft 5, section C.5, 3rd bullet point states:
> 	* As with most cryptographic algorithms, LRW-AES transform
> 	  should not be used to encrypt its own secret-key.  In
> 	  particular, when using LRW-AES to encrypt its own secret-key
> 	  followed by a block of zeros, it may be possible to deduce
> 	  the last 128 bits of the key from the ciphertext.
> 	BTW: I believe the cryptological attack might be possible
> 	     if the LRW-AES secret key is also preceded
> 	     by a block of zeros, not just if it is followed by zeros.
> I would like to explore how the LRW mode can be improved to mitigate
> this problem.
> I would also like to explore the possibility of constructing attacks
> where the LRW-AES secret-key is preceded or followed by a known and
> chosen
> non-zero (perhaps a low hamming weight (low number of 1 bits)) block
> of data.  I am not convinced that some form of interesting attack with
> a low hamming weight block is out of the question.  The more general
> problem might be somewhat wider than we suspect.
> chongo () /\oo/\
> =-=
> p.s.	Editorial (rat-hole warning) side note:
> Given the level of issues that some people saw in some
> bad implementations and mis-uses of CBC mode, I'm still
> amazed at how easy LRW passed the working group with this
> kind of issue hanging over it.