Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2021/648

Security of COFB against Chosen Ciphertext Attacks

Mustafa Khairallah

Abstract: COFB is a lightweight authenticated encryption (AE) mode based on block ciphers, proposed in CHES 2017 and is the basis for GIFT-COFB, a finalist in the NIST lightweight standardization project. It comes with provable security results that guarantee its security up to the birthday bound in the nonce-respecting model. However, the designers offer multiple versions of this analysis with different details and the implications of attacks against the scheme are not discussed deeply. In this article, we look at different possible attacks against COFB-like designs against both forgery and confidentiality. We show that the security for both forgery and confidentiality is bounded by the amount of forgery attempts. In particular, we show the existence of forgery and confidentiality attacks with success probability $q_f/2^{n/2}$, given $q_f$ forgery attempts. In particular, we show that both forgery and confidentiality can be broken with $2^{n/2}$ attempts using only a single known-plaintext encryption query.

While these attacks do not contradict the claims made by the GIFT-COFB designers, it shows its limitations in terms of the number of forgery attempts. It also shows that while GIFT-COFB generates a 128-bit tag it behaves in a very similar manner to an AE scheme with 64-bit tag. As an independent result, our analysis provides a contradiction to main in theorem of Journal of Cryptology volume 33, pages 703–741 (2020), which is an includes an improved security proof of COFB compared to the CHES 2017 version. Finally, we discuss the term $nq_f/2^{n/2}$ that appears in the security proof of GIFT-COFB and CHES 2017, showing why this term is unlikely to be tight and it is likely that $q_f/2^{n/2}$ is sufficient. We emphasize that the results in this article do not threaten the security of GIFT-COFB in the scope of the NIST lightweight cryptography requirements or the claims made by the designers in the specification of the design.

Category / Keywords: secret-key cryptography / AEAD; GIFT; COFB; Forgery; Confidentiality; Authentication; Authenticated Encryption

Date: received 18 May 2021, last revised 25 May 2021

Contact author: mustafa khairallah at ntu edu sg

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Version: 20210525:171432 (All versions of this report)

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