Paper 2022/053

Brute Force Cryptanalysis

Aron Gohr


The topic of this contribution is the cryptanalytic use of spurious keys, i.e. non-target keys returned by exhaustive key search. We show that the counting of spurious keys allows the construction of distinguishing attacks against block ciphers that are generically expected to start working at (marginally) lower computational cost than is required to find the target key by exhaustive search. We further show that if a brute force distinguisher does return a strong distinguishing signal, fairly generic optimizations to random key sampling will in many circumstances render the cost of detecting the signal massively lower than the cost of exhaustive search. We then use our techniques to quantitatively characterize various non-Markov properties of round-reduced Speck32/64. We fully compute, for the first time, the ciphertext pair distribution of 3-round Speck32/64 with one input difference $\Delta$ without any approximations and show that it differs markedly from Markov model predictions; we design a perfect distinguisher for the output distribution induced by the same input difference for 5-round Speck32/64 that is efficient enough to process millions of samples on an ordinary PC in a few days; we design a generic two-block known-plaintext distinguisher against Speck32/64 and show that it achieves 58 percent accuracy against 5-round Speck, equivalent e.g. to a linear distinguisher with $\approx 50$ percent bias. Turning our attention back to differential cryptanalysis, we show that our known-plaintext distinguisher automatically handles the 5-round output distribution induced by input difference $\Delta$ as well as the perfect differential distinguisher, but that no significant additional signal is obtained from knowing the plaintexts. We then apply the known-plaintext brute force distinguisher to 7-round Speck32/64 with fixed input difference $\Delta$, finding that it achieves essentially the same distinguishing advantage as state-of-the-art techniques (neural networks with key averaging). We also show that our techniques can precisely characterize non-Markov properties in longer differential trails for Speck32/64.

Available format(s)
Secret-key cryptography
Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
Automatic cryptanalysisSpeckdifferential cryptanalysislinear cryptanalysis
Contact author(s)
aron gohr @ gmail com
2022-01-18: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Aron Gohr},
      title = {Brute Force Cryptanalysis},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2022/053},
      year = {2022},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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