Paper 2021/705

Bridging Machine Learning and Cryptanalysis via EDLCT

Yi Chen and Hongbo Yu


Machine learning aided cryptanalysis is an interesting but challenging research topic. At CRYPTO'19, Gohr proposed a Neural Distinguisher (ND) based on a plaintext difference. The ND takes a ciphertext pair as input and outputs its class (a real or random ciphertext pair). At EUROCRYPTO'20, Benamira et al proposed a deeper analysis of how two specific NDs against Speck32/64 work. However, there are still three research gaps that researchers are eager to fill in. (1) what features related to a ciphertext pair are learned by the ND? (2) how to explain various phenomena related to NDs? (3) what else can machine learning do in conventional cryptanalysis? In this paper, we filled in the three research gaps: (1) we first propose the Extended Differential-Linear Connectivity Table (EDLCT) which is a generic tool describing a cipher. Features corresponding to the EDLCT are designed to describe a ciphertext pair. Based on these features, various machine learning-based distinguishers including the ND are built. To explore various NDs from the EDLCT view, we propose a Feature Set Sensitivity Test (FSST) to identify which features may have a significant influence on NDs. Features identified by FSST share the same characteristic related to the cipher's round function. Surrogate models of NDs are also built based on identified features. Experiments on Speck32/64 and DES confirm that features corresponding to the EDLCT are learned by NDs. (2) We explain phenomena related to NDs via EDLCT. (3) We show how to use machine learning to search differential-linear propagations ∆ → λ with a high correlation, which is a tough task in the differential-linear attack. Applications in Chaskey and DES demonstrate the advantages of machine learning. Furthermore, we provide some optional inputs to improve ND

Available format(s)
Secret-key cryptography
Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
Contact author(s)
chenyi19 @ mails tsinghua edu cn
2021-05-28: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Yi Chen and Hongbo Yu},
      title = {Bridging Machine Learning and Cryptanalysis via EDLCT},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2021/705},
      year = {2021},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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