On the Impossibility of Cryptography with Tamperable Randomness


We initiate a study of the security of cryptographic primitives in the presence of efficient tampering attacks to the randomness of honest parties. More precisely, we consider p-tampering attackers that may efficiently tamper with each bit of the honest parties’ random tape with probability p, but have to do so in an “online” fashion. Our main result is a strong negative result: We show that any secure encryption scheme, bit commitment scheme, or zero-knowledge protocol can be “broken” with advantage \(\Omega (p)\) by a p-tampering attacker. The core of this result is a new algorithm for biasing the output of bounded-value functions, which may be of independent interest. We also show that this result cannot be extended to primitives such as signature schemes and identification protocols: assuming the existence of one-way functions, such primitives can be made resilient to -tampering attacks where n is the security parameter.

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  1. 1.

    Let us remark that the simulation property of tamper-resilient compilers do not necessarily guarantee that if the sender algorithm is compiled into a “tamper-resilient” version, then the encryption scheme is tamper-resilient. This is due to the fact that the simulation property of those compilers only guarantee that an attacker cannot learn more from tampering with the sender strategy than it could have with black-box access to it. But in the case of encryption schemes, it is actually the input to the algorithm (i.e., the message to be encrypted) that we wish to hide (as opposed to some secret held by the algorithm).

  2. 2.

    In a stronger variant of tampering attacks, the attacker might be completely stateful and memorize the original values of the previous bits before and after tampering and also the places where the tampering took place, and use this extra information in its future tampering. Using the weaker stateless attacker of Definition 3.1 only makes our negative results stronger. Our positive results hold even against stateful attackers.

  3. 3.

    The auxiliary input could, e.g., be the information that the tampering algorithm receives about the secret state of the tampered party; this information might not be available at the time the tampering circuit is generated by the adversary.

  4. 4.

    The input length m could potentially be much smaller than the security parameter \(\kappa \).

  5. 5.

    This could be achieved, e.g., by switching to choosing \((1-f)\) with provability 0.5 whenever f is sampled from \({\mathcal F}\). This modification gives us the desired property while preserving the pairwise independence of \({\mathcal F}\).

  6. 6.

    If the scheme was public-key this would not be necessary as the whole description of T could depend on \(\mathsf {pk}\).

  7. 7.

    More formally, for this statement to be true, we need the event E that the security is broken to be efficiently recognizable.


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohammad Mahmoody.

Additional information

P. Austrin: Work done while at Univ. of Toronto, funded by NSERC.

K.-M. Chung: Supported in part by NSF Award CNS-1217821.

M. Mahmoody: Supported by NSF CAREER award CCF-1350939.

R. Pass: Pass is supported in part by a Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship.

Karn Seth: Work done while at Cornell.

NSF Award CNS-1217821, NSF CAREER Award CCF-0746990, NSF Award CCF-1214844, AFOSR YIP Award FA9550-10-1-0093, and DARPA and AFRL under contract FA8750-11-2- 0211. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or the US Government.

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Austrin, P., Chung, K., Mahmoody, M. et al. On the Impossibility of Cryptography with Tamperable Randomness. Algorithmica 79, 1052–1101 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00453-016-0219-7

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  • Tampering
  • Randomness
  • Encryption