Paper 2020/795

Implementation and Benchmarking of Round 2 Candidates in the NIST Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization Process Using Hardware and Software/Hardware Co-design Approaches

Viet Ba Dang, Farnoud Farahmand, Michal Andrzejczak, Kamyar Mohajerani, Duc Tri Nguyen, and Kris Gaj


Performance in hardware has typically played a major role in differentiating among leading candidates in cryptographic standardization efforts. Winners of two past NIST cryptographic contests (Rijndael in case of AES and Keccak in case of SHA-3) were ranked consistently among the two fastest candidates when implemented using FPGAs and ASICs. Hardware implementations of cryptographic operations may quite easily outperform software implementations for at least a subset of major performance metrics, such as speed, power consumption, and energy usage, as well as in terms of security against physical attacks, including side-channel analysis. Using hardware also permits much higher flexibility in trading one subset of these properties for another. A large number of candidates at the early stages of the standardization process makes the accurate and fair comparison very challenging. Nevertheless, in all major past cryptographic standardization efforts, future winners were identified quite early in the evaluation process and held their lead until the standard was selected. Additionally, identifying some candidates as either inherently slow or costly in hardware helped to eliminate a subset of candidates, saving countless hours of cryptanalysis. Finally, early implementations provided a baseline for future design space explorations, paving a way to more comprehensive and fairer benchmarking at the later stages of a given cryptographic competition. In this paper, we first summarize, compare, and analyze results reported by other groups until mid-May 2020, i.e., until the end of Round 2 of the NIST PQC process. We then outline our own methodology for implementing and benchmarking PQC candidates using both hardware and software/hardware co-design approaches. We apply our hardware approach to 6 lattice-based CCA-secure Key Encapsulation Mechanisms (KEMs), representing 4 NIST PQC submissions. We then apply a software-hardware co-design approach to 12 lattice-based CCA-secure KEMs, representing 8 Round 2 submissions. We hope that, combined with results reported by other groups, our study will provide NIST with helpful information regarding the relative performance of a significant subset of Round 2 PQC candidates, assuming that at least their major operations, and possibly the entire algorithms, are off-loaded to hardware.

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Preprint. MINOR revision.
public-key cryptographyimplementationPost-Quantum Cryptographyhardwaresoftwarehardware co-designFPGASystem on ChipASICKey Encapsulation Mechanismdigital signatureARMNEON
Contact author(s)
kgaj @ gmu edu
2020-10-13: last of 2 revisions
2020-06-27: received
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      author = {Viet Ba Dang and Farnoud Farahmand and Michal Andrzejczak and Kamyar Mohajerani and Duc Tri Nguyen and Kris Gaj},
      title = {Implementation and Benchmarking of Round 2 Candidates in the NIST Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardization Process Using Hardware and Software/Hardware Co-design Approaches},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2020/795},
      year = {2020},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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