Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2021/923

On the (in)security of ElGamal in OpenPGP

Luca De Feo and Bertram Poettering and Alessandro Sorniotti

Abstract: Roughly four decades ago, Taher ElGamal put forward what is today one of the most widely known and best understood public key encryption schemes. ElGamal encryption has been used in many different contexts, chiefly among them by the OpenPGP standard. Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, in reality there is a large degree of ambiguity on several key aspects of the cipher. Each library in the OpenPGP ecosystem seems to have implemented a slightly different "flavour" of ElGamal encryption. While --taken in isolation-- each implementation may be secure, we reveal that in the interoperable world of OpenPGP, unforeseen cross-configuration attacks become possible. Concretely, we propose different such attacks and show their practical efficacy by recovering plaintexts and even secret keys.

Category / Keywords: cryptographic protocols / OpenPGP, ElGamal encryption, cryptanalysis, DLP, side-channel attack

Original Publication (with minor differences): CCS 2021

Date: received 7 Jul 2021

Contact author: poe at zurich ibm com

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20210709:175606 (All versions of this report)

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