# Analysis of linear relationships in block ciphers

Z'aba, Muhammad Reza (2010) *Analysis of linear relationships in block ciphers.* PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

## Abstract

This thesis is devoted to the study of linear relationships in symmetric block ciphers. A block cipher is designed so that the ciphertext is produced as a nonlinear function of the plaintext and secret master key. However, linear relationships within the cipher can still exist if the texts and components of the cipher are manipulated in a number of ways, as shown in this thesis. There are four main contributions of this thesis. The first contribution is the extension of the applicability of integral attacks from word-based to bitbased block ciphers. Integral attacks exploit the linear relationship between texts at intermediate stages of encryption. This relationship can be used to recover subkey bits in a key recovery attack. In principle, integral attacks can be applied to bit-based block ciphers. However, specific tools to define the attack on these ciphers are not available. This problem is addressed in this thesis by introducing a refined set of notations to describe the attack. The bit patternbased integral attack is successfully demonstrated on reduced-round variants of the block ciphers Noekeon, Present and Serpent. The second contribution is the discovery of a very small system of equations that describe the LEX-AES stream cipher. LEX-AES is based heavily on the 128-bit-key (16-byte) Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) block cipher. In one instance, the system contains 21 equations and 17 unknown bytes. This is very close to the upper limit for an exhaustive key search, which is 16 bytes. One only needs to acquire 36 bytes of keystream to generate the equations. Therefore, the security of this cipher depends on the difficulty of solving this small system of equations. The third contribution is the proposal of an alternative method to measure diffusion in the linear transformation of Substitution-Permutation-Network (SPN) block ciphers. Currently, the branch number is widely used for this purpose. It is useful for estimating the possible success of differential and linear attacks on a particular SPN cipher. However, the measure does not give information on the number of input bits that are left unchanged by the transformation when producing the output bits. The new measure introduced in this thesis is intended to complement the current branch number technique. The measure is based on fixed points and simple linear relationships between the input and output words of the linear transformation. The measure represents the average fraction of input words to a linear diffusion transformation that are not effectively changed by the transformation. This measure is applied to the block ciphers AES, ARIA, Serpent and Present. It is shown that except for Serpent, the linear transformations used in the block ciphers examined do not behave as expected for a random linear transformation. The fourth contribution is the identification of linear paths in the nonlinear round function of the SMS4 block cipher. The SMS4 block cipher is used as a standard in the Chinese Wireless LAN Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) and hence, the round function should exhibit a high level of nonlinearity. However, the findings in this thesis on the existence of linear relationships show that this is not the case. It is shown that in some exceptional cases, the first four rounds of SMS4 are effectively linear. In these cases, the effective number of rounds for SMS4 is reduced by four, from 32 to 28. The findings raise questions about the security provided by SMS4, and might provide clues on the existence of a flaw in the design of the cipher.

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ID Code: | 35725 |
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Item Type: | QUT Thesis (PhD) |

Supervisor: | Dawson, Edward, Simpson, Leonie, Wong, Kenneth, Henricksen, Matt, & Raddum, Harvard |

Keywords: | block cipher, stream cipher, symmetric cipher, linear transformation, diffusion, cryptanalysis, fixed points, round function, key scheduling algorithm, integral attack, bit-pattern, algebraic analysis, system of equations, branch number, AES, ARIA, LEX, BES, Noekeon, PRESENT, Serpent, SMS4 |

Divisions: | Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology Past > Institutes > Information Security Institute |

Institution: | Queensland University of Technology |

Deposited On: | 20 Sep 2010 15:45 |

Last Modified: | 29 Oct 2011 05:57 |

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