Paper 2017/490

To BLISS-B or not to be - Attacking strongSwan's Implementation of Post-Quantum Signatures

Peter Pessl, Leon Groot Bruinderink, and Yuval Yarom


In the search for post-quantum secure alternatives to RSA and ECC, lattice-based cryptography appears to be an attractive and efficient option. A particularly interesting lattice-based signature scheme is BLISS, offering key and signature sizes in the range of RSA moduli. A range of works on efficient implementations of BLISS is available, and the scheme has seen a first real-world adoption in strongSwan, an IPsec-based VPN suite. In contrast, the implementation-security aspects of BLISS, and lattice-based cryptography in general, are still largely unexplored. At CHES 2016, Groot Bruinderink et al. presented the first side-channel attack on BLISS, thus proving that this topic cannot be neglected. Nevertheless, their attack has some limitations. First, the technique is demonstrated via a proof-of-concept experiment that was not performed under realistic attack settings. Furthermore, the attack does not apply to BLISS-B, an improved variant of BLISS and also the default option in strongSwan. This problem also applies to later works on implementation security of BLISS. In this work, we solve both of the above problems. We present a new side-channel key-recovery algorithm against both the original BLISS and the BLISS-B variant. Our key-recovery algorithm draws on a wide array of techniques, including learning-parity with noise, integer programs, maximimum likelihood tests, and a lattice-basis reduction. With each application of a technique, we reveal additional information on the secret key culminating in a complete key recovery. Finally, we show that cache attacks on post-quantum cryptography are not only possible, but also practical. We mount an asynchronous cache attack on the production-grade BLISS-B implementation of strongSwan. The attack recovers the secret signing key after observing roughly 6000 signature generations.

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Published elsewhere. ACM CCS'17
lattice-based cryptographyside-channel analysissignaturescache attackslearning parity with noiselattice reduction
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peter pessl @ iaik tugraz at
2017-08-28: last of 2 revisions
2017-05-31: received
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      author = {Peter Pessl and Leon Groot Bruinderink and Yuval Yarom},
      title = {To {BLISS}-B or not to be - Attacking {strongSwan}'s Implementation of Post-Quantum Signatures},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2017/490},
      year = {2017},
      doi = {10.1145/3133956.3134023},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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