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Subject: Linux can do Speck now
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Don't use it, it was written by the NSA:

[PATCH v2 0/5] crypto: Speck support
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     Subject: [PATCH v2 0/5] crypto: Speck support
    From: Tomer Ashur <tomer.ashur@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
    Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2018 21:23:28 +0200
    Cc: Samuel Neves <samuel.c.p.neves@xxxxxxxxx>, "Jason A.
Donenfeld" <Jason@xxxxxxxxx>, Linux Crypto Mailing List
<linux-crypto@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Herbert Xu
linux-arm-kernel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ard Biesheuvel
<ard.biesheuvel@xxxxxxxxxx>, Jeffrey Walton
<noloader@xxxxxxxxx>, Paul Crowley <paulcrowley@xxxxxxxxxx>,
Patrik Torstensson <totte@xxxxxxxxxx>, Greg Kaiser
<gkaiser@xxxxxxxxxx>, Paul Lawrence
<paullawrence@xxxxxxxxxx>, Michael Halcrow
<mhalcrow@xxxxxxxxxx>, Alex Cope <alexcope@xxxxxxxxxx>, Greg
Kroah-Hartman <gregkh@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
    Openpgp: preference=signencrypt
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Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/52.8.0

[Resending because the email bounced back from all 3 mailing
Sorry if you get this email twice]
Hi Eric et al.,
I know that this thread is already stale, and I'm sorry I
couldn't join
earlier but maybe late is better than never. Allow me to
first introduce
myself: my name is Tomer Ashur and I'm a post-doctoral
fellow in KU
Leuven. I am part of symmetric-key group led by Vincent
Rijmen where I'm
mostly involved in cryptanalysis. I am also part of ISO/IEC
27/WG 2, the group which decided to reject Simon and Speck
from ISO. If
it's okay with you, I'd like to give my perspective on what
happened in
ISO and what is Speck's real standing with the academic

First, I'd like to say that the NSA has done quite extensive
work in
muddying the waters, arguing that Simon & Speck are secure
and that all
objections are political. This is not true, as I will now
show with
examples. The bottom line is that there are still many open
about their security, questions that the NSA has, on
multiple occasions,
refused to answer.

It seems to me justified about as well as one would hope
for a new cipher -   "Notes on the design and analysis of Simon and Speck"
seems to me to give ... detail on the reasoning
This is actually an optical illusion. First you need to
understand the
context for this document. The NSA (in particular, the exact
same person
who previously promoted DUAL_EC in ISO) proposed to include
Simon &
Speck in ISO/IEC 29192-2 back in 2015. For obvious reasons
they were met
with skepticism. A main concern was the lack of any design
rationale and
internal cryptanalytic results. The NSA people fought tooth
and nail for
a year and a half simultaneously arguing two almost
points: (i) they employ the most talented cryptographers and
hence, we
should trust them when they say that an algorithm is secure;
and (ii)
they are average cryptographers and hence they would not be
able to
insert a backdoor into the algorithm.

More than once they argued in a meeting that the
cryptanalysis for the
ciphers has been stabilized (i.e., that attacks will not
improve) just
to be proved wrong in the next meeting (their answer: "well,
_now_ it
has fully stabilized", which was again proven wrong in the
meeting). One of them even had a bet with Tanja Lange that
no attack on
either Simon or Speck would be extended by 3 rounds or more
in the
upcoming year. He lost this bet. They were very
uncooperative, and made
it a point to let us know that they will not be providing
information about the algorithms.

So, in this climate, you can imagine how surprised we all
were when in
one of the meetings (after not getting the votes they needed
in order to
proceed to the next stage) they announced that they will
provide a
design rationale. At first they distributed it to us in ISO,
but per my
suggestion they then uploaded it to ePrint (see ePrint

But our joy was short-lived. Once you read this so-called
rationale you can immediately notice two things. Firstly,
that they
explain in length all decisions affecting performance (in
rotation amounts - which in one of the meetings they
described as
"most-efficient; secure-enough"). The second thing is that
when it comes
to cryptanalysis this document is merely a literature
review. There is
literally nothing new there - all they do is to cite
published works by
academics, something wrongly.

Now, there is no nice way to say that, but this document
omissions, falsehoods, half-truths and outright lies. I will
not go into
the full analysis of the document, but here are some

 1. Omissions - I already said that this document does not
provide any
    new information. This becomes apparent when you try to
find out how
    they chose the number of rounds. The document remains
quite vague on
    this question. There is a lot of hand waving about
    techniques", "multipath effect", etc. but nowhere you
can find (in
    the old version, they recently uploaded a new version
which I didn't
    have time to read yet) a place where they say: "this is
how we set
    the number of rounds".

    Another omission is about the key schedule - you won't
find any
    useful information about the design decisions leading to
    particular key schedules. Simon uses 3 matrices U,V, and
W which are
    not explained, not does the constant c. Speck's key
schedule is more
    straightforward but a discussion about the symmetries
that may arise
    from using the round function for the key schedule would
still be
    appropriate here. Not discussing the combined security
of the cipher
    with its key schedule goes against the current trend in
    cryptanalysis (see e.g., [2] and many follow up
 2. Half-truths -  take a look at page 16 where they explain
how they
    avoided rotation/slide attacks. They give the standard
    that using round-constants would thwart these attacks.
This could
    have been fine if the last sentence wasn't "/Also see
[AL16]/". From
    the text it seems as if /AL16/ supports the claims made
in this
    paragraph. However, /AL16/ is a paper I co-authored
which is how I
    know that not only that it doesn't support the claim, it
    shows how to adapt rotational cryptanalysis to
algorithms using
    round constants.

    As a side note, the goal of /AL16/ was to present a
novel way to use
    rotational cryptanalysis in the presence of round
constants. This
    paper was published in FSE'17 and we followed up on it
with a paper
    in FSE'18 using this attack against Speck{32,48,64} [1].
The reason
    we focused on these versions and not the larger one is
not, as was
    suggested in this thread, that they are somehow more
secure. The
    actual reason is much less prosaic: these are the
resources we had
    at our disposal. This is also the reason the weak-key
classes are so
    small. But the fact that my publicly funded university
cannot afford
    a better number cruncher doesn't mean that someone with
access to
    such won't be able to find better results. In fact, I am
    convinced that if you give our tool the resources it
needs, it would
    penetrate way more than the currently best known
distinguisher of 19
    rounds for Speck128 (translating to better key recovery

    What is important to understand here is in the same way
you do
    "real-world crypto", academics often do "proofs of
concept". After
    publishing the attack technique and the attack on
(reduced-)Speck, I
    moved to my next project because the scientific marginal
benefit is
    small. There is of course the personal gain of being
known as the
    guy who broke Speck, but I'm not particularly interested
in such
    fame. All of that being said, if anyone has the
firepower to run
    this tool and to improve the existing attacks for
Speck128, feel
    free to drop me an email.
 3. Falsehoods - with this word I refer to claims in the
    design rationale that are wrong. We can argue whether
they were
    included on purpose or if they are simply mistakes. But
in either
    case, they are exist and they are worrisome. I would
only give one
    example: "/the design team's early analytic efforts led
us to
    believe that the limiting cryptanalytic features for
Simon and
    Speck-type block ciphers would be of the linear and
    sort"/ (see Page 4). Believing that differential and
linear attacks
    would be the most dangerous attacks is reasonable, but
as we can see
    from [1], it is wrong.
 4. Lies - this is the most troubling part. The NSA lies to
the public
    (including the American people) on official documents. I
    wrote that the choice for the exact number of rounds is
    motivated through some hand waving. This makes it hard
to tell what
    the real security margin is. But even if you interpret
the hand
    waving conservatively, the math results in much smaller
    margins than what is claimed. I gave a rump session talk
about this
    in Crypto 2017 which you can view here [3]. The talk
focuses on
    Simon but the story for Speck is similar and results in
    margins of 15.6%, 15.6%, and 14.7% for Speck128 with key
sizes 128,
    192, and 256, respectively. According to the NSA, that
is, and only
    if you accept the claim that attacks have stabilized.

    the choice for the number of rounds was heavily
discussed in the ISO
    meeting in Berlin about 6 months ago. When confronted
with this
    question, the NSA answered (again) that they will not be
    further information, added that anyone with a decent
level of
    English would immediately understand what they meant,
and called me
    an incompetent cryptographer. Nevertheless, a few months
after the
    meeting they updated the so-called design rationale and
added a
    footnote that reads:
    "The original version of this paper said 50% here,
but noted that
    this was "very conser-
    vative." This led to confusion by some, who
interpreted 50% as an
    exact value, rather than
    the very conservative upper bound we intended it to
be. This is
    supported by the literature
    (see, e.g., [CW15]) and by our internal analysis.
Indeed 50% is a
    significant overestimate;
    25% appears to be a more accurate estimate. We
apologize for the
    lack of clarity here, and
    note that even if future advances increased the 25%
to 50% Simon
    would still be secure." (Page 11)
    This is a fine clarification except that it is an
outrageous lie.
    For example, for Simon32 the so-called design rationale
reports that
    the best linear trail can penetrate at most 12 rounds.
As part of my
    research I found an 18-round linear hull which _was
confirmed, in
    writing,_ by the NSA (I should have the email somewhere
and can find
    it if anyone is interested). The difference between 12
and 18 rounds
    is indeed 50% and not 25% as they argue in the updated

These are only part of the problems I and others found with
so-called design rationale. Having so many problems in a
document meant
to convince people that you're not doing anything sinister
is either an
indication for some serious incompetence, or an indication
something sinister is actually happening. Either way, it is
clear that
this document is meant for PR and has no scientific value.
It surely
does not inspire confidence in the algorithms.

All of this was known to the people in the room when ISO
made its
decision to reject Simon and Speck (after deliberating about
this for
more than 3 years. Not because there were disagreements but
because we
wanted to give the NSA a fair chance). These people also got
a first
hand impression of how poorly the people the NSA sent fare
_technical_ questions, basically refusing to answer all, and
tantrums instead. And then, the ISO people also saw another
During the discussions I asked the NSA two non-technical
questions (from
a crypto point of view. These are technical questions from
standardization point of view):     - Q: You claim that third party analysis is indicative
of the
algorithm's real security. Were you aware of all these
results when you
published the algorithms, or are any of them better than
what you knew of?
    - A: I refuse to answer that
    -Q: Are you aware of any cryptanalytic results better
than those
already found by academia?
    -A: I refuse to answer that either.

Now, there seem to be some notion that the people in ISO are
with limited understanding in cryptography. The truth is
that WG 2 (the
cryptography experts) includes people like Kan Yasuda, Shiho
Moriai, Dan
Berenstein, Pascal Paillier, Tanja Lange, Orr Dunkelman and
Jian Guo
(partial list). You can't say that they don't know what
they're doing.
Which is why, having all this information, we decided that
these algorithms in one of our standards would undermine the
people have in ISO and the work it is doing.

Note that in parallel to the Simon and Speck process, people
from the
NSA (different from those involved in Simon and Speck) are
promoting at least two other projects. So you can't say that
really is a significant anti-NSA bias either. No, these
algorithms seem
insecure, attacks against them keep improving, their
designers either
refuse to answer basic questions about their security or
lie... What
other conclusion could we have reached except that there
might be a
security problem with these algorithms?

This of course brings us back to the question asked early in
this thread:

support for SM4 was just added too, which is a Chinese
government standard. Are you going to send a patch to
remove that
too, or is it just NSA designed algorithms that are not
This seems pretty obvious to me. If you don't feel
comfortable with SM4,
don't add it either. There are at least that many reasons to
the Chinese government as there are to distrust the NSA.

However, the answer to the question
Could you say a little more about what it is that
separates Speck from SM4
for you?
is a bit different. There are two main things that separate
Speck from
SM4. Firstly, it seems more secure. This is either because
it actually
is more secure, or because the Chinese did a better job in
hiding their
backdoors; but at least it doesn't scream "something strange
is going on
here!!!". Second, SM4 is also being standardized in ISO
these days and
the Chinese are very cooperative with the process. Whatever
question you
have about this algorithm, I can get you an answer from the
promoting SM4. This inspires confidence in the algorithm and
process. Is this enough? I don't think so. But being a
member of ISO I'm
bound by certain rules that don't allow me to reject
algorithms based on
my intuition, so it seems that SM4 (as well as LEA and
Kuznyechik) would
probably find their way into the respective standards.

That being said, if you ask for my opinion, just don't
include SM4.

Which bring us to the million dollar question:
So, what do you propose replacing it with?
Nothing. I am usually not one to argue for maintaining the
status quo
and I sure am in favor of encryption-for-all but this case
is the text
book example for employing the Precautionary Principle. You
yourself are
not fully convinced that Speck is secure and does not
contain any
backdoors. If it was really secure, it could have been used
in all cases
and not only on low-end devices where AES is too slow. AES
is slower
than Speck on most platforms.

Now, I'm a sort of a mathematician which doesn't know much
processor generations and implementation efficiency. Things
like 134833
KB/s are Chinese to me. But the way I understand it, these
devices that
are to weak to support AES would not be around in 2-5 years
which would
make the problem go away. In the foreseeable future, even if
crypto-extension isn't added to low-end processors, they
would still
improve to a degree they can run some of the
algorithms of today, no?

I would also like to point out that including an algorithm
because "it's
better than nothing" result in something that is not
better-than-nothing, but stands in the way of good
solutions. Since
there is no acute problem, why do we need to solve it? This
is from the
cryptographers' point of view. From the end-user point of
view when they
get something bundled into Android, they don't know that it
was included
there as something that is "better than nothing". They think
of it as
"good enough; endorsed by Android/Google/Linux". What you
give them is a
false sense of security because they don't know of all the
marks surrounding Speck (both technical and political).

So I think that as a first step, no-encryption is better
than using
Speck. Then we can move for a longer term solution. Since
this is an
important enough issue I asked around and people are happily
willing to
help. For example, Dan Berenstein seems to believe that a
solution can
be built using a generic construction along the lines of
your discussion
with Samuel (with or without a variant of ChaCha). Even if a
construction cannot be used Berenstein told me he's willing
to help
design a solution. I also asked Vincent Rijmen and Orr
Dunkelman and
they both told me they'd be willing to work in a team to
find (or
design) a solution. This is already an impressive cadre and
I'm sure it
would not be too much of a problem to solicit other notable
cryptographer because basically, no one in this community
thinks it's a
good idea to use Speck.

Sorry for the long post and Shabbat Shalom,

Tomer Ashur, PhD
Senior Researcher
COSIC, KU Leuven


On 05/08/2018 01:20 AM, Eric Biggers wrote:
Hi Samuel,

On Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 03:05:44AM +0100, Samuel Neves
On Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 8:49 PM, Eric Biggers
<ebiggers@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I agree that my explanation should have been better, and
should have considered
more crypto algorithms.  The main difficulty is that we
have extreme performance
requirements -- it needs to be 50 MB/s at the very least
on even low-end ARM
devices like smartwatches.  And even with the
NEON-accelerated Speck128-XTS
performance exceeding that after much optimization,
we've been getting a lot of
pushback as people want closer to 100 MB/s.

I couldn't find any NEON-capable ARMv7 chip below 800
MHz, so this
would put the performance upper bound around 15 cycles
per byte, with
the comfortable number being ~7. That's indeed tough,
though not

That's why I also included Speck64-XTS in the patches,
since it was
straightforward to include, and some devices may really
need that last 20-30% of
performance for encryption to be feasible at all.  (And
when the choice is
between unencrypted and a 64-bit block cipher, used in a
context where the
weakest points in the cryptosystem are actually
elsewhere such as the user's
low-entropy PIN and the flash storage doing
wear-leveling, I'd certainly take
the 64-bit block cipher.)  So far we haven't had to use
Speck64 though, and if
that continues to be the case I'd be fine with Speck64
being removed, leaving
just Speck128.

I would very much prefer that to be the case. As many of
us know,
"it's better than nothing" has been often used to justify
other bad
choices, like RC4, that end up preventing better ones
from being
adopted. At a time where we're trying to get rid of
64-bit ciphers in
TLS, where data volumes per session are comparatively
low, it would be
unfortunate if the opposite starts happening on
encryption at rest.

Note that in practice, to have any chance at meeting the
performance requirement
the cipher needed to be NEON accelerated.  That made
benchmarking really hard
and time-consuming, since to definitely know how an
algorithm performs it can
take upwards of a week to implement a NEON version.  It
needs to be very well
optimized too, to compare the algorithms fairly -- e.g.
with Speck I got a 20%
performance improvement on some CPUs just by changing
the NEON instructions used
to implement the 8-bit rotates, an optimization that is
not possible with
ciphers that don't use rotate amounts that are multiples
of 8.  (This was an
intentional design choice by the Speck designers; they
do know what they're
doing, actually.)

Thus, we had to be pretty aggressive about dropping
algorithms from
consideration if there were preliminary indications that
they wouldn't perform
well, or had too little cryptanalysis, or had other
issues such as an unclear
patent situation.  Threefish for example I did test the
C implementation at but on ARM32 it
was over 4 times slower
than my NEON implementation of Speck128/256-XTS.  And I
did not see a clear way
that it could be improved over 4x with NEON, if at all,
so I did not take the
long time it would have taken to write an optimized NEON
implementation to
benchmark it properly.  Perhaps that was a mistake.
But, time is not unlimited.

In my limited experience with NEON and 64-bit ARX,
there's usually a
~2x speedup solely from NEON's native 64-bit operations
on ARMv7-A.
The extra speedup from encrypting 2 block in parallel is
somewhere between 1x and 2x, depending on various
details. Getting
near 4x might be feasible, but it is indeed
time-consuming to get

As for the wide-block mode using ChaCha20 and Poly1305,
you'd have to ask Paul
Crowley to explain it properly, but briefly it's
actually a pseudorandom
permutation over an arbitrarily-sized message.  So with
dm-crypt for example, it
would operate on a whole 512-byte sector, and if any bit
of the 512-byte
plaintext is changed, then every bit in the 512-byte
ciphertext would change
with 50% probability.  To make this possible, the
construction uses a polynomial
evalution in GF(2^130-5) as a universal hash function,
similar to the Poly1305

Oh, OK, that sounds like something resembling
Naor-Reingold or its
relatives. That would work, but with 3 or 4 passes I
guess it wouldn't
be very fast.

Using ChaCha20's underlying 512-bit permutation to build
a tweakable block
cipher is an interesting idea.  But maybe in my
crypto-naivety, it is not
obvious to me how to do so.  Do you have references to
any relevant papers?
Remember that we strongly prefer a published cipher to a
custom one -- even if
the core is reused, a mistake may be made in the way it
is used.  Thus,
similarly to Paul's wide-block mode, I'd be concerned
that we'd have to
self-publish a new construction, then use it with no
outside crypto review.
*Maybe* it would be straightforward enough to be okay,
but to know I'd need to
see the details of how it would actually work.

This would be the 'tweakable Even-Mansour' construction
and its
variants. The variant I'm most familiar with would be MEM
focusing on software friendliness, but there is other
security work in the same vein, including [3, 4, 5]. It's
very similar
to how the XEX mode turns a block cipher into a tweakable

In [1, 2] we used a 1024-bit permutation out of BLAKE2
instead of
ChaCha20's, but everything translates easily from one to
the other. We
also included cheap masks for 512-bit permutations, just
in case.


But in the end, Speck seemed like the clear choice
because it had multiple NEON
implementations available already which showed it could
be implemented very
efficiently in NEON; it has over 70 cryptanalysis papers
(far more than most
ciphers) yet the security margin is still similar to
AES; it has no intellectual
property concerns; there is a paper clearly explaining
the design decisions; it
is naturally resistant to timing attacks; it supports a
128-bit block size, so
it can be easily used in XTS mode; it supports the same
key sizes as AES; and it
has a simple and understandable design with no "magic
numbers" besides 8 and 3
(compare to an actual backdoored algorithm like
Dual_EC_DRGB, which basically
had a public key embedded in the algorithm).  Also as
Paul mentioned he is
confident in the construction, and he has published
cryptanalysis on Salsa20, so
his opinion is probably more significant than mine :)

But I will definitely take a closer look at SPARX and
some of the other ciphers
you mentioned in case I missed something.  I really do
appreciate the
suggestions, by the way, and in any case we do need to
be very well prepared to
justify our choices.  I just hope that people can
understand that we are
implementing real-world crypto which must operate under
*very* tight performance
constraints on ARM processors, and it must be compatible
with dm-crypt and
fscrypt with no room for ciphertext expansion.  Thus,
many algorithms which may
at first seem reasonable choices had to (unfortunately)
be excluded.

I understand it is a tough choice, and it's unfortunate
that many of
the algorithms we have cater mostly to either the
high-hardware-accelerated-end or the extremely low-end,
without a lot
of good options at the middle-end.

First, we're planning a publication which explains our
choices in more detail,
so please treat this as some more preliminary notes.

To make sure we've exhausted as many alternatives as
possible, I wrote NEON
implementations of all the block ciphers you suggested
with the exception of
SKINNY (which looked very hardware-oriented and not
efficient in software), as
well as some that others have suggested.  (It was tough,
but after doing a
couple, it got much easier...)  The following shows the
decryption performance
I'm getting on an ARMv7 platform.  Encryption speeds
were usually similar, but
in our use case we care much more about decryption, as
that affects the most
critical metrics such as the time to launch

ChaCha8-MEM: 183256 KB/s
ChaCha12-MEM: 134833 KB/s
Chaskey-LTS-XTS: 99097 KB/s
ChaCha20-MEM: 87875 KB/s
Speck64/128-XTS: 85332 KB/s
Speck128/128-XTS: 73404 KB/s
RC5-128/12/256-XTS: 69887 KB/s
Speck128/256-XTS: 69597 KB/s
RC5-64/12/128-XTS: 69267 KB/s
LEA-128-XTS: 67986 KB/s
CHAM128/128-XTS: 52982 KB/s
LEA-256-XTS: 50429 KB/s
Threefish-256: 48349 KB/s
RC6-XTS: 46855 KB/s
RC5-128/20/256-XTS: 44291 KB/s
RC5-64/20/128-XTS: 43924 KB/s
Sparx128/128-XTS: 39191 KB/s
XTEA-XTS: 38239 KB/s
AES-128-XTS: 25549 KB/s
AES-256-XTS: 18640 KB/s

Remember that for dm-crypt or fscrypt over flash storage
and/or f2fs, a stream
cipher is insecure.  Moreover, on these (low-end)
devices the status quo is no
encryption, and we need every bit of performance
available.  Anything below
50 MB/s is definitely unacceptable.  But even at that
speed we get many
complaints, so in practice we need something faster. That means that the
algorithms close to 50 MB/s, such as Threefish, still
aren't fast enough.

ChaCha-MEM (based roughly on your paper: has
the best performance, especially if we allow for the 12
or 8-round variants.  My
code for it is based roughly on the existing
arch/arm/crypto/chacha20-neon-core.S, but updated to
support the inverse
permutation (on 4 blocks at a time, using all 16 NEON
registers) and do the
masking required by MEM.  However, ChaCha-MEM would be a
pretty bleeding-edge
and customized construction, and Paul Crowley and I have
concerns about its
security.  The problem is that the MEM security proof
assumes that the
underlying permutation has no more detectable structural
properties than a
randomly selected permutation.  However, the ChaCha
permutation is known to have
certain symmetries, e.g. if the sixteen 32-bit words are
(a, a, a, a, b, b, b,
b, c, c, c, c, d, d, d, d), then they always map to some
(e, e, e, e, f, f, f,
f, g, g, g, g, h, h, h, h).

For the MEM mask generation, we can use the "expand
32-byte k" constant to break
the symmetry, like is done in the ChaCha stream cipher. However, that's not
possible for the inner application of the permutation. So, we'd be using the
ChaCha permutation in a manner in which it wasn't
intended, and the security of
the ChaCha stream cipher wouldn't directly carry over. Granted, it's not
impossible that it would be secure, but at the present
time it doesn't seem like
a good choice to actually field.

Chaskey-LTS is faster than Speck, but unfortunately it's
not really a viable
option because it has only a 64-bit security level, due
to its use of the
Even-Mansour construction with a 128-bit key.  Of
course, it would still be
better than nothing, but we prefer a cipher that has a
security level in line
with what is accepted for modern crypto.

RC5 with the traditional 12 rounds is about as fast as
Speck, but there is a
known differential attack on that number of rounds.  So
if we choose RC5 we'd
almost certainly have to use the 20-round variant, which
is much slower.

That leaves LEA-128-XTS as the only other algorithm that
might meet the
performance requirement, as it is only slightly slower
than Speck128-XTS.  It
may be the most viable alternative, but beyond the
slight performance loss it
still has some disadvantages compared to Speck:

- Importantly, the LEA authors forgot to include test
vectors, so I'm not yet
  100% sure I implemented it correctly.  (The Speck
authors unfortunately didn't
  make the endianness of their test vectors clear in
their initial publication,
  but at least they actually provided test vectors!)
- LEA has received some cryptanalysis, but not nearly as
much as Speck.
- It took some very heavy optimization to get good LEA
performance, much more
  than I had to do for Speck.  My final LEA code has
separate code paths for
  128-bit and 256-bit keys, and has reordered and
preprocessed the round keys,
  and reordered the operations.  As a result, it's
harder to see how it maps to
  the original paper.  In contrast, my Speck code is
more straightforward and
- LEA-256 (256-bit key) is much slower than LEA-128
(128-bit key), as it has
  33% more rounds.  LEA-256 would not be fast enough, so
we would have to use
  LEA-128.  In contrast, with Speck we can use
Speck128/256 (256-bit key).
  We're willing to accept a 128-bit security level, but
256-bit is preferable.
  (I think the Speck designers took a more informed
approach to setting
  appropriate security margins for a lightweight cipher;
it seems that other
  designers often choose too few or too many rounds,
especially as the key
  length is varied.)
- LEA encryption is also a bit slower than decryption,
while with Speck
  encryption and decryption are almost exactly the same

Note that like Speck, LEA doesn't appear to be approved
by a standards
organization either; it's just specified in a research

Thus, from a technical perspective, and given the
current state of the art in
lightweight cryptography, currently Speck128-XTS seems
to be the best choice for
the problem domain.  It's unfortunate that there are so
few good options and
that the field is so politicized, but it is what it is.

Still, we don't want to abandon HPolyC (Paul's new
ChaCha and Poly1305-based
wide-block mode), and eventually we hope to offer it as
an option as well.  But
it's not yet published, and it's a more complex
algorithm that is harder to
implement so I haven't yet had a chance to implement and
benchmark it.  And we
don't want to continue to leave users unprotected while
we spend a long time
coming up with the perfect algorithm, or for hardware
AES support to arrive to
all low-end CPUs when it's unclear if/when that will

Again, we're planning a publication which will explain
all this in more detail.



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By: Guest on Mon, 4 Jun 2018

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