Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2013/222

Tight security bounds for key-alternating ciphers

Shan Chen, John Steinberger

Abstract: A $t$-round \emph{key-alternating cipher} (also called \emph{iterated Even-Mansour cipher}) can be viewed as an abstraction of AES. It defines a cipher $E$ from $t$ fixed public permutations $P_1, \ldots, P_t : \bits^n \ra \bits^n$ and a key $k = k_0\Vert \cdots \Vert k_t \in \bits^{n(t+1)}$ by setting $E_{k}(x) = k_t \oplus P_t(k_{t-1} \oplus P_{t-1}(\cdots k_1 \oplus P_1(k_0 \oplus x) \cdots))$. The indistinguishability of $E_k$ from a truly random permutation by an adversary who also has oracle access to the (public) random permutations $P_1, \ldots, P_t$ was investigated in 1997 by Even and Mansour for $t = 1$ and for higher values of $t$ in a series of recent papers. For $t = 1$, Even and Mansour proved indistinguishability security up to $2^{n/2}$ queries, which is tight. Much later Bogdanov et al$.$ (2011) conjectured that security should be $2^{\frac{t}{t+1}n}$ queries for general $t$, which matches an easy distinguishing attack (so security cannot be more) . A number of partial results have been obtained supporting this conjecture, besides Even and Mansour's original result for $t = 1$: Bogdanov et al$.$ proved security of $2^{\frac{2}{3}n}$ for $t \geq 2$, Steinberger (2012) proved security of $2^{\frac{3}{4}n}$ for $t \geq 3$, and Lampe, Patarin and Seurin (2012) proved security of $2^{\frac{t}{t+2}n}$ for all even values of $t$, thus "barely" falling short of the desired $2^{\frac{t}{t+1}n}$.

Our contribution in this work is to prove the long-sought-for security bound of $2^{\frac{t}{t+1}n}$, up to a constant multiplicative factor depending on $t$. Our method is essentially an application of Patarin's H-coefficient technique. The proof contains some coupling-like and inclusion-exclusion ideas, but the main trick that pushes the computations through is to stick with the combinatorics and to refrain from rounding any quantities too early. For the reader's interest, we include a self-contained tutorial on the H-coefficient technique.

Category / Keywords: secret-key cryptography /

Publication Info: (none)

Date: received 15 Apr 2013

Contact author: jpsteinb at gmail com

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Version: 20130429:092214 (All versions of this report)

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