Paper 2018/689

Mind the Gap - A Closer Look at the Security of Block Ciphers against Differential Cryptanalysis

Ralph Ankele and Stefan Kölbl


Resistance against differential cryptanalysis is an important design criteria for any modern block cipher and most designs rely on finding some upper bound on probability of single differential characteristics. However, already at EUROCRYPT'91, Lai et al. comprehended that differential cryptanalysis rather uses differentials instead of single characteristics. In this paper, we consider exactly the gap between these two approaches and investigate this gap in the context of recent lightweight cryptographic primitives. This shows that for many recent designs like Midori, Skinny or Sparx one has to be careful as bounds from counting the number of active S-boxes only give an inaccurate evaluation of the best differential distinguishers. For several designs we found new differential distinguishers and show how this gap evolves. We found an 8-round differential distinguisher for Skinny-64 with a probability of $2^{-56.93}$, while the best single characteristic only suggests a probability of $2^{-72}$. Our approach is integrated into publicly available tools and can easily be used when developing new cryptographic primitives. Moreover, as differential cryptanalysis is critically dependent on the distribution over the keys for the probability of differentials, we provide experiments for some of these new differentials found, in order to confirm that our estimates for the probability are correct. While for Skinny-64 the distribution over the keys follows a Poisson distribution, as one would expect, we noticed that Speck-64 follows a bimodal distribution, and the distribution of Midori-64 suggests a large class of weak keys.

Available format(s)
Secret-key cryptography
Publication info
Published elsewhere. Selected Areas in Cryptography (SAC 2018)
Symmetric-key cryptographydifferential cryptanalysislightweight cryptographySATSMT solverIoTLBlockMidoriPresentPrinceRectangleSimonSkinnySparxSpeckTwine
Contact author(s)
ralph ankele 2015 @ live rhul ac uk
2018-07-18: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Ralph Ankele and Stefan Kölbl},
      title = {Mind the Gap - A Closer Look at the Security of Block Ciphers against Differential Cryptanalysis},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/689},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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