Paper 2019/1004

Forkcipher: a New Primitive for Authenticated Encryption of Very Short Messages

Elena Andreeva, Virginie Lallemand, Antoon Purnal, Reza Reyhanitabar, Arnab Roy, and Damian Vizar


Highly efficient encryption and authentication of short messages is an essential requirement for enabling security in constrained scenarios such as the CAN FD in automotive systems (max. message size 64 bytes), massive IoT, critical communication domains of 5G, and Narrowband IoT, to mention a few. In addition, one of the NIST lightweight cryptography project requirements is that AEAD schemes shall be “optimized to be efficient for short messages (e.g., as short as 8 bytes)”. In this work we introduce and formalize a novel primitive in symmetric cryptography called a forkcipher. A forkcipher is a keyed function expanding a fixed-length input to a fixed-length output. We define its security as indistinguishability under chosen ciphertext attack. We give a generic construction validation via the new iterate-fork-iterate design paradigm. We then propose ForkSkinny as a concrete forkcipher instance with a public tweak and based on SKINNY: a tweakable lightweight block cipher constructed using the TWEAKEY framework. We conduct extensive cryptanalysis of ForkSkinny against classical and structure-specific attacks. We demonstrate the applicability of forkciphers by designing three new provably-secure, nonce-based AEAD modes which offer performance and security tradeoffs and are optimized for efficiency of very short messages. Considering a reference block size of 16 bytes, and ignoring possible hardware optimizations, our new AEAD schemes beat the best SKINNY-based AEAD modes. More generally, we show forkciphers are suited for lightweight applications dealing with predominantly short messages, while at the same time allowing handling arbitrary messages sizes. Furthermore, our hardware implementation results show that when we exploit the inherent parallelism of ForkSkinny we achieve the best performance when directly compared with the most efficient mode instantiated with the SKINNY block cipher.

Available format(s)
Secret-key cryptography
Publication info
Published elsewhere. Major revision. To appear at Asiacrypt 2019
Authenticated encryptionnew primitiveforkcipherForkSkinnylightweight cryptographyshort messages
Contact author(s)
arnab roy @ bristol ac uk
2019-09-05: revised
2019-09-05: received
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Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Elena Andreeva and Virginie Lallemand and Antoon Purnal and Reza Reyhanitabar and Arnab Roy and Damian Vizar},
      title = {Forkcipher: a New Primitive for Authenticated Encryption of Very Short Messages},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2019/1004},
      year = {2019},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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