Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2019/907

Practical Forgery Attacks on Limdolen and HERN

Raghvendra Rohit and Guang Gong

Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the security of Limdolen and HERN which are Round 1 submissions of the ongoing NIST Lightweight Cryptography Standardization Project. We show that some non-conservative design choices made by the designers solely to achieve a lightweight design lead to practical forgery attacks. In particular, we create associated data-only, ciphertext-only and associated data and ciphertext forgeries which require a feasible number of forging attempts.

Limdolen employs a tweaked PMAC based construction to offer authenticated encryption functionality. It has two variants, Limdolen-128 and Limdolen-256 with key sizes 128 and 256 bits, respectively. The designers claim 128(256)-bit integrity security for Limdolen-128(256). Our main observation is that it uses a sequence of period 2 consisting of only two distinct secret masks. This structural flaw attributes to a successful forgery (all three types) with probability 1 after observing the output of a single encryption query. While, HERN is a 128-bit authenticated encryption scheme whose high level design is inspired from the CAESAR finalist Acorn. We show a message modification strategy by appending/removing a sequence of consecutive ‘0’ bits. Accordingly, we can construct associated data-only, ciphertext-only and associated data and ciphertext forgery with the success rate of $2^{-1}$, $2^{-1}$ and 1 after 2, 4 and 2 encryption queries, respectively.

Overall, our attacks defeat the claim of 128(256) and 128-bit integrity security of Limdolen-128(256) and HERN, respectively. We have experimentally verified the correctness of our attacks with the reference implementations. Notably, these are the first cryptanalytic results on both algorithms. Consequently, our results are expected to help in further understanding of similar designs.

Category / Keywords: secret-key cryptography / NIST lightweight cryptography standardization project, AEAD, Limdolen, HERN, Forgery