Paper 2020/874

New Methods and Abstractions for RSA-Based Forward Secure Signatures

Susan Hohenberger and Brent Waters


We put forward a new abstraction for achieving forward-secure signatures that are (1) short, (2) have fast update and signing and (3) have small private key size. Prior work that achieved these parameters was pioneered by the pebbling techniques of Itkis and Reyzin (CRYPTO 2001) which showed a process for generating a sequence of roots $h^{1/e_1}, h^{1/e_2}, \dots, h^{1/e_T}$ for a group element $h$ in $\mathbb{Z}_N^*$. However, the current state of the art has limitations. First, while many works claim that Itkis-Reyzin pebbling can be applied, it is seldom shown how this non-trivial step is concretely done. Second, setting up the pebbling data structure takes $T$ time which makes key generation using this approach expensive. Third, many past works require either random oracles and/or the Strong RSA assumption; we will work in the standard model under the RSA assumption. We introduce a new abstraction that we call an RSA sequencer. Informally, the job of an RSA sequencer is to store roots of a public key $U$, so that at time period $t$, it can provide $U^{1/e_t}$, where the value $e_t$ is an RSA exponent computed from a certain function. This separation allows us to focus on building a sequencer that efficiently stores such values, in a forward-secure manner and with better setup times than other comparable solutions. Our sequencer abstraction also has certain re-randomization properties that allow for constructing forward-secure signatures with a single trusted setup that takes $T$ time and individual key generation takes $\lg(T)$ time. We demonstrate the utility of our abstraction by using it to provide concrete forward-secure signature schemes. We first give a random-oracle construction that closely matches the performance and structure of the Itkis-Reyzin scheme with the important exception that key generation is much faster (after the one-time setup). We then move on to designing a standard model scheme. This abstraction and illustration of how to use it may be useful for other future works. We include a detailed performance evaluation of our constructions, with an emphasis on the time and space costs for large caps on the maximum number of time periods $T$ supported. Our philosophy is that frequently updating forward secure keys should be part of ``best practices'' in key maintenance. To make this practical, even for bounds as high as $T=2^{32}$, we show that after an initial global setup, it takes only seconds to generate a key pair, and only milliseconds to update keys, sign messages and verify signatures. The space requirements for the public parameters and private keys are also a modest number of kilobytes, with signatures being a single element in $\mathbb{Z}_N$ and one smaller value.

Available format(s)
Public-key cryptography
Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
forward securitydigital signaturesRSA
Contact author(s)
susan @ cs jhu edu
bwaters @ cs utexas edu
2020-07-12: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Susan Hohenberger and Brent Waters},
      title = {New Methods and Abstractions for {RSA}-Based Forward Secure Signatures},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2020/874},
      year = {2020},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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