[Cfrg] Structure in the S-box of the Russian algorithms (RFC 6986, RFC 7801)

Leo Perrin <leo.perrin@inria.fr> Sun, 10 February 2019 21:49 UTC

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Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2019 22:49:46 +0100
From: Leo Perrin <leo.perrin@inria.fr>
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Thread-Topic: Structure in the S-box of the Russian algorithms (RFC 6986, RFC 7801)
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Subject: [Cfrg] Structure in the S-box of the Russian algorithms (RFC 6986, RFC 7801)
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Dear CFRG Participants, 

My name is Léo Perrin, I am a post-doc in symmetric cryptography at Inria, and I would like to bring recent results of mine to your attention. They deal with the last two Russian standards in symmetric crypto, namely RFC 7801 (Kuznyechik, a block cipher) and RFC 6986 (Streebog, a hash function). My conclusion is that their designers purposefully used (and did not disclose) a very specific structure to build their S-box. The knowledge of this structure demands a renewed analysis of their algorithms in its light. While I do not have an attack at the moment, these results lead me to urge caution about using these algorithms. 

Let me summarize my results. 

Both algorithms use the same 8-bit S-box, pi, which is only specified via its lookup table. The designers never disclosed their rationale for their choice and never disclosed the structure they used. I have managed to identify what I claim to be the structure purposefully used by its designers to construct pi. The corresponding paper was accepted at ToSC and is already on eprint: [ https://eprint.iacr.org/2019/092 | https://eprint.iacr.org/2019/092 ] 

With my then colleagues from the university of Luxembourg, we previously found two different structures in this component and published them a couple years ago [1,2]. However, we were not satisfied with these results as the structures we found were bulky and just plain weird. The one I just found is much simpler and has both previous decompositions as side effects---in fact, we conjectured the existence of such a nicer structure in [2]. Much more importantly, this new decomposition highlights some very specific (and, in my opinion, worrying) properties of pi that were not known before. 

In a nutshell, pi is actually defined over the finite field GF(2^8) in such a way as to map multiplicative cosets of GF(2^4) to additive cosets of GF(2^4). Furthermore, the restriction of the permutation to each multiplicative coset is always the same. Also, the linear layer of Streebog---specified via a 64x64 binary matrix by its designers, including in RFC 6986---is in fact an 8x8 matrix defined over GF(2^8) using the same irreducible polynomial as in the S-box. Thus, at least in the case of Streebog, both the linear layer and the S-box interact in a highly structured way with two partitions of GF(2^8) and one of those is its partition into additive cosets of the subfield (this will be important later). 

This situation is unlike anything else in the literature. For example, while the inverse in GF(2^8) preserves the partition into multiplicative cosets of GF(2^8), the AES designers composed it with an affine mapping breaking the GF(2^8) structure. It is not the case here. On the other hand, Arnaud Bannier proved in his PhD (see also [3]) that an S-box preserving a partition of the space into additive cosets in such a way that it interacts with the linear layer was necessary to build some specific backdoors. 

Still, at the moment, I don't know of any attack leveraging my new decomposition as the partition in the input is the partition in multiplicative cosets (and not additive ones). Nevertheless, I can't think of a good reason for the designers of these algorithms to use this structure and, worse, to keep this fact secret; especially since the presence of such properties demands a specific analysis to ensure that the algorithms are safe. 

I felt I had to bring these results to the attention of the CFRG. If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them! 

Best regards, 
/Léo Perrin 

[1] Alex Biryukov, Léo Perrin, Aleksei Udovenko. "Reverse-Engineering the S-Box of Streebog, Kuznyechik and STRIBOBr1". Eurocrypt'16, available online: https://eprint.iacr.org/2016/071 
[2] Léo Perrin, Aleksei Udovenko. "Exponential S-Boxes: a Link Between the S-Boxes of BelT and Kuznyechik/Streebog ". ToSC'16. Available online: https://tosc.iacr.org/index.php/ToSC/article/view/567 
[3] Arnaud Bannier, Nicolas Bodin, Éric Filiol. "Partition-based trapdoor ciphers". https://eprint.iacr.org/2016/493