Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems, CHES 2010

Volume 6225 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 1-15

Quark: A Lightweight Hash

  • Jean-Philippe AumassonAffiliated withNagravision SA
  • , Luca HenzenAffiliated withETH Zurich
  • , Willi MeierAffiliated withFHNW
  • , María Naya-PlasenciaAffiliated withFHNW


The need for lightweight cryptographic hash functions has been repeatedly expressed by application designers, notably for implementing RFID protocols. However not many designs are available, and the ongoing SHA-3 Competition probably won’t help, as it concerns general-purpose designs and focuses on software performance. In this paper, we thus propose a novel design philosophy for lightweight hash functions, based on a single security level and on the sponge construction, to minimize memory requirements. Inspired by the lightweight ciphers Grain and KATAN, we present the hash function family Quark, composed of the three instances u-Quark, d-Quark, and t-Quark. Hardware benchmarks show that Quark compares well to previous lightweight hashes. For example, our lightest instance u-Quark conjecturally provides at least 64-bit security against all attacks (collisions, multicollisions, distinguishers, etc.), fits in 1379 gate-equivalents, and consumes in average 2.44μW at 100kHz in 0.18μm ASIC. For 112-bit security, we propose t-Quark, which we implemented with 2296 gate-equivalents.