Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2019/032

Safety in Numbers: On the Need for Robust Diffie-Hellman Parameter Validation

Steven Galbraith and Jake Massimo and Kenneth G. Paterson

Abstract: We consider the problem of constructing Diffie-Hellman (DH) parameters which pass standard approaches to parameter validation but for which the Discrete Logarithm Problem (DLP) is relatively easy to solve. We consider both the finite field setting and the elliptic curve setting.

For finite fields, we show how to construct DH parameters $(p,q,g)$ for the safe prime setting in which $p=2q+1$ is prime, $q$ is relatively smooth but fools random-base Miller-Rabin primality testing with some reasonable probability, and $g$ is of order $q$ mod $p$. The construction involves modifying and combining known methods for obtaining Carmichael numbers. Concretely, we provide an example with 1024-bit $p$ which passes OpenSSL's Diffie-Hellman validation procedure with probability $2^{-24}$ (for versions of OpenSSL prior to 1.1.0i). Here, the largest factor of $q$ has 121 bits, meaning that the DLP can be solved with about $2^{64}$ effort using the Pohlig-Hellman algorithm. We go on to explain how this parameter set can be used to mount offline dictionary attacks against PAKE protocols.

In the elliptic curve case, we use an algorithm of Broker and Stevenhagen to construct an elliptic curve $E$ over a finite field ${\mathbb{F}}_p$ having a specified number of points $n$. We are able to select $n$ of the form $h\cdot q$ such that $h$ is a small co-factor, $q$ is relatively smooth but fools random-base Miller-Rabin primality testing with some reasonable probability, and $E$ has a point of order $q$. Concretely, we provide example curves at the 128-bit security level with $h=1$, where $q$ passes a single random-base Miller-Rabin primality test with probability $1/4$ and where the elliptic curve DLP can be solved with about $2^{44}$ effort. Alternatively, we can pass the test with probability $1/8$ and solve the elliptic curve DLP with about $2^{35.5}$ effort. These ECDH parameter sets lead to similar attacks on PAKE protocols relying on elliptic curves.

Our work shows the importance of performing proper (EC)DH parameter validation in cryptographic implementations and/or the wisdom of relying on standardised parameter sets of known provenance.

Category / Keywords: public-key cryptography / Primality testing, Miller-Rabin test, Diffie-Hellman, PAKE, Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman, Carmichael numbers

Original Publication (with minor differences): IACR-PKC-2019

Date: received 13 Jan 2019, last revised 8 Apr 2020

Contact author: Jake Massimo 2015 at rhul ac uk

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Note: Fixed URL links. Added Section 4.4 on disclosure to OpenSSL.

Version: 20200408:120421 (All versions of this report)

Short URL:

[ Cryptology ePrint archive ]