Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Robust encryption for symmetric primitives

Robustness for encryption schemes has been introduced in the context of public-key encryption in the work of Abdalla, Bellare and Neven. In a nutshell, it states that a ciphertext cannot be decrypted under two different keys. Later, their work has been extended, by taking into account the cases where the keys are adversarially generated.
The work of Farshim, Orlandi and Roşie studies the robustness in the context of symmetric primitives under the incorrect usage of keys. Roughly speaking, a  key-robust scheme does not output ciphertexts/tags that are valid with respect to distinct keys. Key-robustness is a notion that is often tacitly expected/assumed in protocol design --- as is the case with anonymous auction, oblivious transfer, or public-key encryption.

To motivate the new notion, "consider the following protocol, for constructing a ${3 \choose 2}$-OT protocol using only ${3 \choose 1}$-OTs: the sender picks $3$ random keys $k_1,k_2,k_3$ and inputs the message $x_1=(k_2,k_3),x_2=(k_1,k_3)$ and $x_3=(k_1,k_2)$ to the OT. At the same time, the sender sends encryptions of his messages under these keys, i.e., sends $c_i=E(k_i,m_i)$ for $i=1..3$. Now the receiver inputs the index of the message he does not want to learn to the ${3 \choose 1}$-OT and learns all keys except $k_i$. Intuitively the fact that the messages are sent only once (encrypted) should guarantee that the sender's choice of messages is uniquely defined. However, consider the following attack: the corrupt sender inputs $x^*_1=(k_2, k^*)$ (instead of $x_1$) such that $D(k^*,c_3)=m^*_3$ with $m^*_3\neq m_3$ and $m^*_3\neq \bot$. This means that the receiver will see two different versions of $m_3$ depending on whether the receiver asked for the pair $(2,3)$ or $(1,3)$. (This attack is an example of input-dependence and is a clear breach of security since it cannot be simulated in the ideal world)."
In terms of the results, the new work considers "both notions where the adversary has control over the keys and notions where the keys are generated honestly. The strongest notion that is formulated is called complete robustness and allows an adversary to generate the keys used in the system. The work shows that whether the adversary is in control of the keys or not makes a significant difference, by giving separations between the notions. While previous work in the public-key setting also had to deal with adversarially generated keys that were also invalid, this is not an issue in the setting, since in the symmetric world keys are often bit-strings of some pre-specified length and can be easily checked for validity. By focusing on correctly formed keys it can can shown equivalence between  complete robustness and a syntactically simpler notion, which we call full robustness." Then, it is shown that full robustness composes well: any fully robust symmetric encryption when combined with a fully robust MAC results in a fully robust AE scheme. Analogous composition results also hold for MAC-then-Encrypt and Encrypt-and-MAC.

One of the most interesting question is if "feasibility results for robustness in the public-key setting can be translated to the symmetric setting. This turns out not to be the case. The main reason for this is that in the asymmetric setting the public key can be used as a mechanism to commit to its associated secret key. In the symmetric case, on the other hand, there is no such public information. It might be tempting to think that one can just commit to the secret key and append it to the ciphertext. Unfortunately this approach cannot be proven secure due to a circular key-dependency between the encryption and the commitment components. To give a provably secure construction, with the authors constructing appropriate commitments that can be used in this setting. This requires  a right-injective PRG, that can be in turn based on one-way permutations. This result relies on the one-time security of the MAC and its collision-resistance, which once again is based on right-injective PRGs."