**Improved Security Bounds for Key-Alternating Ciphers via Hellinger Distance**

*John Steinberger*

**Abstract: **A $t$-round key alternating cipher can be viewed as an abstraction of AES. It defines a cipher $E$ from $t$ fixed public permutations $P_1, \ldots, P_t : \{0,1\}^n \ra \{0,1\}^n$ and a key $k = k_0\Vert \cdots \Vert k_t \in \{0,1\}^{n(t+1)}$ 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 random truly random permutation by an adversary who also has oracle access to the (public) random permutations $P_1, \ldots, P_t$ was investigated for $t = 2$ by Even and Mansour and, much later, by Bogdanov et al. The former proved indistinguishability up to $2^{n/2}$ queries for $t = 1$ while the latter proved indistinguishability up to $2^{2n/3}$ queries for $t \geq 2$ (ignoring low-order terms). Our contribution is to improve the analysis of Bogdanov et al$.$ by showing security up to $2^{3n/4}$ queries for $t \geq 3$. Given that security cannot exceed $2^{\frac{t}{t+1}n}$ queries, this is in particular achieves a tight bound for the case $t = 3$, whereas, previously, tight bounds had only been achieved for $t = 1$ (by Even and Mansour) and for $t = 2$ (by Bogdanov et al$.$). Our main technique is an improved analysis of the elegant \emph{sample distinguishability} game introduced by Bogdanov et al. More specifically, we succeed in eliminating adaptivity by considering the Hellinger advantage of an adversary, a notion that we introduce here. To our knowledge, our result constitutes the first time Hellinger distance (a standard measure of ``distance'' between random variables, and a cousin of statistical distance) is used in a cryptographic indistinguishability proof.

**Category / Keywords: **secret-key cryptography / blockcipher indistinguishability

**Date: **received 21 Aug 2012, last revised 7 Dec 2012

**Contact author: **jpsteinb at gmail com

**Available format(s): **PDF | BibTeX Citation

**Version: **20121207:084220 (All versions of this report)

**Short URL: **ia.cr/2012/481

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