A known plaintext attack on the PKZIP stream cipher

  • Eli Biham
  • Paul C. Kocher
Session 3: Stream Ciphers-Cryptanalysis

DOI: 10.1007/3-540-60590-8_12

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 1008)
Cite this paper as:
Biham E., Kocher P.C. (1995) A known plaintext attack on the PKZIP stream cipher. In: Preneel B. (eds) Fast Software Encryption. FSE 1994. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 1008. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg


The PKZIP program is one of the more widely used archive/ compression programs on personal computers. It also has many compatible variants on other computers, and is used by most BBS's and ftp sites to compress their archives. PKZIP provides a stream cipher which allows users to scramble files with variable length keys (passwords).

In this paper we describe a known plaintext attack on this cipher, which can find the internal representation of the key within a few hours on a personal computer using a few hundred bytes of known plaintext. In many cases, the actual user keys can also be found from the internal representation. We conclude that the PKZIP cipher is weak, and should not be used to protect valuable data.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eli Biham
    • 1
  • Paul C. Kocher
    • 2
  1. 1.Computer Science DepartmentTechnion - Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Independent cryptographic consultantCorvallisUSA

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