## 1 Introduction

The concept of bent functions was introduced by Rothaus [22] as a family of Boolean functions possessing several nice combinatorial properties, which allowed for their great range of applications such as in design theory, coding theory, sequences, cryptography to mention a few. An exhaustive survey on bent functions related to their design and properties can be found in [6] and in the recent textbook [17]. For a detailed study of Boolean functions in cryptography we refer to [5]. In general, the design methods of bent functions can be divided into primary and secondary constructions. Whereas the two main primary classes (the partial spread [9] and Maiorana–McFarland class [15]) specify bent functions directly (without involving other bent functions), the known secondary constructions involve other bent functions either on the same or on smaller variable spaces. A non-exhaustive list of various secondary constructions can be found in the following works [3, 4, 7, 11, 16, 30]. However, the question regarding the class inclusion of bent functions stemming from these secondary construction methods is commonly left open, apart from the following works [1,2,3, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 27,28,29], where some explicit families of bent functions provably outside the completed $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ class are given. Moreover, other combinatorial objects such as bent-negabent and (vectorial) bent functions can also be specified using bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$, see for instance [20, 26].

In this article, we consider one generic method of modifying bent functions in the $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ class based on the so-called $$P_\tau$$ property. More precisely, initially Mesnager [16] provided a necessary and sufficient condition for the function $$h(x)=f(x) \oplus Tr(ax)Tr(bx)$$ to be bent, where f is a bent function. This approach has later been generalized to involve more trace terms in [24, 25], whereas a more general form $$h(x)=f(x) \oplus \sum _{I \subseteq \{1, \ldots ,\tau \}} a_I \big (\prod _{i \in I }Tr(\mu _i x) \big )$$ was considered in [23], where the bentness of h comes from a certain linearity condition on duals, see [23] for more details. An equivalent characterization of the bentness of h on $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ was later stated in terms of the second order derivatives of the dual function of f [30], in brief requiring that $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*=0$$, for $$1 \le i < j \le \tau$$, where the elements $$\mu _i \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ build a linear subspace $$\mathcal {U}_\tau =\langle \mu _1, \ldots ,\mu _\tau \rangle$$. However, the question about the class membership of derived new families of bent functions was mostly left open. In a recent work [12], this approach was further elaborated and the authors provided an example of a bent function outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ specified using this method. In addition, an open problem concerning the identification of all bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ constructed using this method was left open [12, Open problem 2]. We first identify several families of bent functions that are provably outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ and can be represented within the construction framework given in [12]. Moreover, we provide an explicit design of such functions and thereby we partially answer this open problem. We remark that the initial conditions (see Theorem 3.2) in our main result are easily satisfied and many families of bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ can be generated.

We then extend our approach and derive a more general framework of using $$P_\tau$$ property through combining the so-called trivial and non-trivial defining sets. For instance, Example 3.2 demonstrates the fact that $$\mathcal {P}_{\tau }\not \subset (\mathcal {C}\cup \mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}\cup \mathcal {D}_0\cup \mathcal {D}\cup \mathcal{C}\mathcal{D})$$ and also $$\mathcal {P}_{\tau }\not \subset {\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$. Most notably, we show that permutations with linear structures can be used for this purpose assuming that the defining set is chosen properly. Theorem 4.1 provides a set of sufficient conditions that ensure both bentness and outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ property of the proposed family of bent functions, where the standard condition that for a permutation $$\pi$$ over $$\mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$ satisfies $$Tr_1^m(a\pi (y)) \ne const$$ is absent.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. In Sect. 2, we give some basic definitions related to Boolean functions and in particular we recall certain characterizations related to the completed $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ class. One explicit construction of bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$, based on the so-called $$P_\tau$$ property, is presented in Sect. 3 which also partially answers an open problem raised in [12]. In Sect. 4, we combine trivial and non-trivial defining sets $$\mathcal {U}_\tau$$ to provide a wider framework for specifying bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ using $$P_\tau$$ property. In particular, we show that even permutations that admit linear structures can potentially be employed in this method. The class exclusion from the known classes of bent functions is discussed in Sect. 5. Some concluding remarks are given in Sect. 6.

## 2 Preliminaries

The vector space $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ is the space of all n-tuples $$x=(x_1,\ldots ,x_n)$$, where $$x_i \in \mathbb {F}_2$$. For $$x=(x_1,\ldots ,x_n)$$ and $$y=(y_1,\ldots ,y_n)$$ in $$\mathbb {F}^n_2$$, the usual scalar (or dot) product over $$\mathbb {F}_2$$ is defined as $$x\cdot y=x_1 y_1\oplus \cdots \oplus x_n y_n.$$ The Hamming weight of $$x=(x_1,\ldots ,x_n)\in \mathbb {F}^n_2$$ is denoted and computed as $$wt(x)=\sum ^n_{i=1} x_i.$$ By “$$\sum$$" we denote the integer sum (without modulo evaluation), whereas “$$\bigoplus$$" denotes the sum evaluated modulo two. By $$0_n$$ we denote the all-zero vector with n coordinates, that is $$(0,0,\ldots ,0)\in \mathbb {F}^n_2$$.

The set of all Boolean functions in n variables, which is the set of mappings from $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ to $$\mathbb {F}_2$$, is denoted by $$\mathcal {B}_n$$. It is well-known that any $$f:\mathbb {F}^n_2 \rightarrow \mathbb {F}_2$$ can be uniquely represented by its associated algebraic normal form (ANF) as follows:

\begin{aligned} f(x_1,\ldots ,x_n)=\bigoplus _{u\in \mathbb {F}^n_2}{\lambda _u}{\left( \prod _{i=1}^n{x_i}^{u_i}\right) }, \end{aligned}
(1)

where $$x_i, \lambda _u \in \mathbb {F}_2$$ and $$u=(u_1, \ldots ,u_n)\in \mathbb {F}^n_2$$. The algebraic degree of f, denoted by $$\deg (f)$$, is equal to the maximum Hamming weight of $$u \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ for which $$\lambda _u \ne 0$$.

The Walsh–Hadamard transform (WHT) of $$f\in \mathcal {B}_n$$, and its inverse WHT, at any point $$\omega \in \mathbb {F}^n_2$$ are defined, respectively, by

\begin{aligned} W_{f}(\omega )=\sum _{x\in \mathbb {F}_2^n}(-1)^{f(x)\oplus \omega \cdot x} \end{aligned}

and

\begin{aligned} (-1)^{f(x)}=2^{-n}\sum _{\omega \in \mathbb {F}_2^n}W_f(\omega )(-1)^{\omega \cdot x}. \end{aligned}
(2)

A function $$f\in \mathcal {B}_n,$$ for even n, is called bent if $$W_f(u)=2^{\frac{n}{2}}(-1)^{f^*(u)}$$ for a Boolean function $$f^*\in \mathcal {B}_n$$ which is also a bent function, called the dual of f.

### 2.1 The completed Maiorana–McFarland class

The Maiorana–McFarland class [15], denoted by $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$, is the set of n-variable ($$n=2m$$) Boolean bent functions of the form

\begin{aligned} f(x,y)=x \cdot \pi (y)\oplus g(y), \text{ for } \text{ all } x, y\in \mathbb {F}_2^m, \end{aligned}

where g is an arbitrary Boolean function on $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$, and $$\pi$$ is a permutation on $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$, i.e., $$\pi$$ is a bijective mapping from $${\mathbb {F}}_2^m$$ to $${\mathbb {F}}_2^m$$.

### Definition 2.1

A class of bent functions $$B _n \subset \mathcal {B}_n$$ is complete if it is globally invariant under the action of the general affine group (the group of all invertible affine transformations) and under the addition of affine functions (i.e., Boolean functions of degree at most 1). The completed class, denoted by $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ in the case of the Maiorana–McFarland class, is the smallest possible complete class that contains the class under consideration.

The first-order derivative of a function f in the direction $$a\in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ is given by $$D_{a}f(x)=f(x) \oplus f(x \oplus a)$$. If $$D_af(x) =const \in \mathbb {F}_2$$, for all $$x \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$, then $$a\in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ is said to be a linear structure of f. Derivatives of higher order are defined recursively, i.e., the k-th order derivative of a function $$f\in \mathcal {B}_n$$ is defined by $$D_Vf(x)=D_{a_k}D_{a_{k-1}}\ldots D_{a_1}f(x)=D_{a_k}(D_{a_{k-1}}\ldots D_{a_1}f)(x)$$, where $$V=\langle a_1,\ldots ,a_k \rangle$$ is a vector subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ spanned by elements $$a_1,\ldots ,a_k\in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$. If a Boolean function $$f: \mathbb {F}_2^n \rightarrow \mathbb {F}_2$$ satisfies $$\deg (D_cf)\le \deg (f)-2$$, then c is called a fast point (FP) of f [10]. The set of all fast points of a Boolean function f, building a linear subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$, is denoted by $$\mathbb{F}\mathbb{P}_f$$. We note the following useful lemma.

### Lemma 2.1

[10] Let $$f\in \mathcal {B}_n$$, then $$\deg (f)+\dim (\mathbb{F}\mathbb{P}_f)\le n.$$

The following lemma, due to Dillon [9], is of crucial importance for the discussion on class inclusion.

### Lemma 2.2

[9, p. 102] A bent function f in n variables belongs to $$\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}^{\#}$$ if and only if there exists an n/2-dimensional linear subspace V of $${\mathbb {F}}_2^n$$ such that the second-order derivatives

\begin{aligned} D_{\alpha }D_{\beta }f(x)=f(x)\oplus f(x\oplus \alpha )\oplus f(x\oplus \beta )\oplus f(x\oplus \alpha \oplus \beta ) \end{aligned}

vanish for any $$\alpha , \beta \in V$$.

In the sequel, we call a subspace $$V \subset \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ of dimension $$m \le n/2$$ a vanishing subspace for $$f \in \mathcal {B}_n$$ (also called an $$\mathcal {M}$$-subspace in [21]), whenever $$D_{\alpha }D_{\beta }f(x)=0$$ for all $$\alpha ,\beta \in V$$.

### Remark 2.1

Using the isomorphism between the vector space $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ and the finite field $$\mathbb {F}_{2^n}$$, for convenience and precision, we sometimes write vanishing subspaces in the vector space notation even though the function $$f(x,y)=Tr_1^m(x\pi (y))$$ is defined for $$x,y \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ (corresponding to $$f(x,y)=x \cdot \pi (y)$$, with $$x,y \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$), with $$n=2m$$. Here, $$Tr_1^m(\cdot )$$ denotes the absolute trace function $$Tr_1^m: \mathbb {F}_{2^m} \rightarrow \mathbb {F}_2$$ defined as $$Tr_1^m(x)= x+ x^{2^1} + \cdots + x^{2^{m-1}}$$. Moreover, the all-zero vector $$0 \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$ is denoted simply by 0 when considered as an element of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$.

## 3 Specifying bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ using $$P_{\tau }$$ property

As already mentioned, apart from various initial works in [23,24,25], the bent property of modified functions in the $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ class through addition of certain indicators was analyzed in [30] in terms of the second-order derivatives of the dual bent function. More precisely, denoting by $$f^*$$ the dual function of a bent function $$f \in \mathcal {B}_n$$, it was deduced that $$h(x)=f(x) + \sum _{I \subseteq \{1, \ldots ,\tau \}} a_I \big (\prod _{i \in I }Tr_1^n(\mu _i x) \big )$$ can preserve the bent property provided that $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*=0$$, for $$1 \le i < j \le \tau$$. This condition was sometimes called the $$P_{\tau }$$ property, referring to the cardinality of the linearly independent vectors $$\mu _i \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ for which $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*=0$$. In the sequel, we use the “+” sign to denote the addition of elements in the finite field $$\mathbb {F}_{2^n}$$ instead of “$$\oplus$$” reserved for the vector space notation in $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$.

In this section, we will address this construction method more thoroughly in terms of the class membership of the generated bent functions. In particular, we partially answer an open problem stated recently in [12] that concerns a complete classification of bent functions given in Proposition 3.1 below, with respect to the property of being outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$.

### Proposition 3.1

(Proposition 1 in [12]) Let $$\alpha \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}^*$$ and $$\omega \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$ with $$\omega +\omega ^{2^m}=1$$, where $$n=2m$$. Let $$\pi$$ be a permutation of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ and g be a Boolean function over $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Then, the Boolean function

\begin{aligned} f(x)=Tr_1^n(\alpha \omega ^{2^m}x\pi (x+x^{2^m}))+g(x+x^{2^m}), \;\; \text {for all } x \in \mathbb {F}_{2^n}, \end{aligned}
(3)

is bent on $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$ and the dual of f is given by

\begin{aligned} f^*(x)=Tr_1^n(\omega x\pi ^{-1}(\alpha ^{-1}(x+x^{2^m})))+g(\pi ^{-1}(\alpha ^{-1}(x+x^{2^m}))). \end{aligned}

### Theorem 3.1

(Theorem 8 in [12]) Let f be a bent function on $$\mathbb {F}_{2^n}$$ generated by Proposition 3.1, which is in $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$, and let $$\mu _1, \mu _2, \ldots , \mu _{\tau } \in \mathbb {F}_{2^n}$$ be such that $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j} f^*= 0$$ for any $$1 \le i < j \le \tau$$. Then, for any $$a_I \in \mathbb {F}_2$$, the n-variable Boolean function

\begin{aligned} h(x)=f(x)+F(Tr^n_1 (\mu _1x),Tr^n_1(\mu _2x), \ldots , Tr^n_1(\mu _\tau x)) \end{aligned}
(4)

is a bent function, where $$F(X_1,X_2, \ldots , X_\tau )=\sum _{I \subseteq [\tau ]}a_I (\prod _{i \in I}X_i)$$.

We note that each product $$\prod _{i\in I}X_i$$, $$I\subseteq [\tau ]=\{1,2,\ldots ,\tau \}$$, corresponds to the indicator of some $$(n-|I|)$$-dimensional affine subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$. Hence, the function F can be represented as a sum of indicator functions of affine subspaces not necessarily of the same dimension.

The particular problem that was left open in [12] is stated as follows.

### Open Problem 1

[12] Determine all the bent functions defined as in Theorem 3.1 which are outside the completed Maiorana–McFarland class.

We now first identify certain families of bent functions that are outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ and fall into this framework. More precisely, we specify a new family of bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ which also satisfies the above form and thereby provides a partial answer to the open problem above.

Note that any $$x\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$, $$n=2m$$, can be represented as $$x=y+z\omega$$, where $$y,z\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ and $$\omega \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$ with $$\omega +\omega ^{2^m}=1$$. Thus, the function (3) can be written as

\begin{aligned} f(x)=f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(\alpha y\pi (z))+g(z), \end{aligned}
(5)

where $$\alpha \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}^*$$. In [12], the authors provided one example of functions of the form (4) which is provably outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$.

For simplicity, we will assume that $$\alpha =1$$ and $$g\cong 0$$ in (5), i.e. we will consider functions $$f\in \mathcal {B}_{2m}$$ of the form $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$ which belong to $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$. Note that any linear function from $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\rightarrow \mathbb {F}_2$$ can be written as $$(y,z)\mapsto Tr_1^m(\alpha y+\beta z)$$, where $$\mu =(\alpha ,\beta )\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Hence, the function given by (4), with the above restrictions, can be written in bivariate form as

\begin{aligned} h(y,z)&=f(y,z)+F(Tr_1^m(\alpha _1y+\beta _1z),\ldots ,Tr_1^m(\alpha _{\tau }y+\beta _{\tau }z)), \end{aligned}
(6)

where $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$ and $$F(X_1,X_2, \ldots , X_\tau )=\sum _{I \subseteq [\tau ]}a_I (\prod _{i \in I}X_i)$$, with $$\mu _i=(\alpha _i,\beta _i)\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ and $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*=0$$ for any $$1\le i<j\le \tau \le m$$. Notice that $$X_i=Tr_1^m(\alpha _iy+\beta _iz)$$, thus it represents a linear function.

### Remark 3.1

As mentioned above, we can consider the function h in bivariate form and consequently, we can represent the elements $$\mu _i$$ in the form $$\mu _i=(\alpha _i,\beta _i)\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Note, that if we want our function h to be outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$, we cannot have $$\alpha _i=0$$ for all $$1\le i\le \tau$$. In this case, we would have $$h(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))+G(z) \in {\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$, where $$G(z)=F(Tr_1^m(\beta _1 z),\ldots ,Tr_1^m(\beta _{\tau }z))$$. Hence, to have h outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ a necessary condition is that the function F does not entirely depend on the variable z.

In the sequel, we will use $$\mathcal {U}_{\tau }$$ to denote the set $$\{\mu _1,\ldots ,\mu _{\tau }\}$$. If $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$, then $$f^*(y,z)=Tr_1^m(z\pi ^{-1}(y))$$ (see for instance [5]). It is easy to verify that $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*(y,z)=0$$ for $$\mu _i,\mu _j\in \{0\}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. However, such a choice of $$\mu _i$$ will result in $$h(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))+G(z)$$, and $$h \in {\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ as remarked above. Because of this, we will say that the set $$\mathcal {U}_{\tau }\subset \{0\}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ is a trivial defining set for $$f^*$$, otherwise, it will be called non-trivial. Notice that depending on the choice of $$\pi$$ both f and its dual $$f^*$$ may admit other vanishing subspaces of maximal dimension m but also other ones of a smaller dimension.

For a Boolean function $$F\in \mathcal {B}_m$$, let us for nonzero distinct elements $$\alpha _i, \alpha _j \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m }$$, define

\begin{aligned} {\varvec{\Xi }}(F):=\{i:D_{\alpha _i}D_{\alpha _j}F \ne 0,\ 1\le i<j\le 2^m-1 \}. \end{aligned}

### Remark 3.2

Any nonlinear function F on $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ actually satisfies $$|{\varvec{\Xi }}(F)| \ge 2^{n-1}$$, since there must exist an $$a \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ such that $$\deg (D_a F) \ge 1$$. Now, if $$\deg (D_aF)=1$$ then there are exactly $$2^{n-1}$$ vectors $$b \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ such that $$D_aD_b F \ne 0$$. Otherwise, if $$\deg (D_a F) > 1$$ then there are at least $$2^{n-1}$$ such vectors b.

With this notation, we give the following result which gives a partial answer to the Open Problem 1.

### Theorem 3.2

Let f be a bent function on $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$, $$n=2m$$, defined with $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$, with $$y,z \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$, and let $$\mu _i=(\alpha _i,0)\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ for $$1\le i \le \tau \le m$$ be such that $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*=0$$ for any $$i\ne j$$, thus constituting a non-trivial defining set for $$f^*$$. Let h be defined as in (6). If:

1. a.

$$Tr_1^m(\lambda \pi )$$ has no non-zero linear structures for any $$\lambda \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}^*$$,

2. b.

$$|{\varvec{\Xi }}(F)|\ge 2$$,

then h is a bent function on $$\mathbb {F}_{2^n}$$ outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$.

### Proof

For simplicity, let $$G(y)=F(Tr_1^m(\alpha _1y),\ldots ,Tr_1^m(\alpha _{\tau }y))$$. Let V be any m-dimensional subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Let $$a=(a_1,a_2),b=(b_1,b_2)\in V$$ be arbitrary. The second-order derivative of h (see Lemma 2.2) with respect to a and b can be written as

\begin{aligned} D_{(a_1,a_2)}D_{(b_1,b_2)}h(y,z)&=Tr_1^m\left( yD_{a_2}D_{b_2}\pi (z)+ a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z+a_2)\right. \\&\qquad \left. \quad +b_1D_{a_2}\pi (z+b_2)\right) +D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G(y), \end{aligned}

and we need to show that that there always exist $$a,b \in V$$ such that $$D_aD_bh \ne 0.$$

We denote the subspace $$\{(x,0):x\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\}$$ by $$\Delta$$. We have the following two cases.

1. a.

$$V=\Delta$$. Then, we can find two vectors $$(a_1,0),(b_1,0)\in \Delta$$ such that

\begin{aligned} D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G(y)\ne 0, \end{aligned}

since $$|{\varvec{\Xi }}(G)|=|{\varvec{\Xi }}(F)|\ge 2$$. Consequently,

\begin{aligned} D_aD_bh(y,z)=D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G(y)\ne 0. \end{aligned}
2. b.

$$V\ne \Delta$$. We split the proof into two cases, based on the size of $$V\cap \Delta$$. Let us denote the elements of V with $$\{(v_1,u_1),\ldots ,(v_{2^m},u_{2^m})\}$$, where $$(v_i,u_i) \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m} \times \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$.

1. (a)

$$|V\cap \Delta |=1$$. In this case, we have that $$u_i\ne u_j$$ for $$i\ne j$$. Otherwise, if there exist two vectors $$u_i, u_j$$ such that $$u_i=u_j$$, then $$v_i=v_j$$ because $$(v_i+ v_j,0)\in V\cap \Delta =\{(0,0)\}$$. In other words, we would have that $$(v_i,u_i)=(v_j,u_j)$$. Further, $$|\{u_1,u_2,\ldots ,u_{2^m} \}|=|V|= 2^{m}$$, that is, $$\{u_1,u_2,\ldots ,u_{2^m} \}=\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Now, since $$Tr_1^m(\lambda \pi )$$ has no non-zero linear structures for any $$\lambda \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}^*$$, we have $$\deg (Tr_1^m(\lambda \pi ))>2$$. This is due to the fact that any quadratic balanced function $$f: \mathbb {F}_{2^m} \rightarrow \mathbb {F}_2$$ always admits at least all-one linear structure, so that $$D_a f =1$$, for all $$x \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$ and for some $$a \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$, see [8, Theorem 6]. Thus, from Lemma 2.1,we can select two vectors $$a=(a_1,a_2), b=(b_1,b_2)\in V$$ such that $$D_{a_2}D_{b_2}\pi (z)\ne const$$, since $$\{u_1,u_2,\ldots ,u_{2^m} \}=\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$.

Furthermore,

\begin{aligned} D_{a}D_{b}h(y,z)= & {} Tr_1^m\left( yD_{a_2}D_{b_2}\pi (z)+ a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z+a_2)+b_1D_{a_2}\pi (z+b_2)\right) \\{} & {} +D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G(y)\ne 0, \end{aligned}

since the term $$Tr_1^m\left( yD_{a_2}D_{b_2}\pi (z)\right)$$ cannot vanish. Thus, $$D_aD_bh\ne 0$$ if $$|V\cap \Delta |=1$$.

2. (b)

For $$|V\cap \Delta |\ge 2$$, without loss of generality, let $$(a_1,0)\in V^*\cap \Delta$$ where $$V^*=V \setminus \{(0,0)\}$$. Set $$b\in V{\setminus } \{0_{{2\,m}},a\}$$, then $$b_2\ne 0$$. Thus, setting $$a_2=0$$ in $$D_{(a_1,a_2)}D_{(b_1,b_2)}h(y,z)$$ above, we get

\begin{aligned} D_aD_bh(y,z)=Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))+D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G(y)\ne 0, \end{aligned}
(7)

since $$Tr_1^m(\lambda \pi )$$ has no nonzero linear structure for any $$\lambda \in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}^*$$.

Combining the cases $$V=\Delta$$ and $$V\ne \Delta$$, we deduce that f does not belong to $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$. $$\square$$

### Remark 3.3

Notice that the assumptions in Theorem 3.2 can be easily satisfied. For the condition on the second-order derivatives of dual $$f^*$$, see also Remark 3.4 below. Permutations whose components are without linear structures have been recently specified in [14]. On the other hand, the condition that $$Tr_1^m(\lambda \pi )$$ has no nonzero linear structures is only sufficient but not necessary. Notice that (7) implies that G can be chosen so that $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G(y) \ne 0$$, unless $$a_1=b_1$$. Then, considering the choice $$a=(a_1,0)$$ and $$b=(b_1,b_2)$$, where $$a_1=b_1$$, implies that $$(0,b_2)$$ belongs to V. For these particular $$a=(a_1,0)$$ and $$b=(0,b_2)$$, it is enough that $$Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))\ne 0$$ so that $$f \not \in {\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$.

### Example 3.1

Let us consider the bent function $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^6(yz^{38}),\ y,z\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{6}}$$. Using Sage, we obtained that $$\mathcal {U}_{2}=\{\omega ^6,\omega ^{27}\}\times \{0\}=\{\alpha _1,\alpha _2\}\times \{0\}$$ is a non-trivial defining set for $$f^*$$, where $$\omega$$ is a primitive element in $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{6}}$$ such that $$\omega ^6+\omega ^4+\omega ^3+\omega +1=0$$. We further confirmed that this was the maximal size for such a set of linearly independent elements. Thus, the only function which can be constructed using Theorem 3.1 is of the form $$h(y,z)=Tr_1^6(yz^{38})+Tr_1^6(\omega ^6y)Tr_1^6(\omega ^{27}y),$$ which belongs to the $${{\mathcal {C}}}$$ class of bent functions, see below. From [29], we know that it is also outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$ since $$\pi (z)=z^{38}$$ is of degree 3 and its components do not admit linear structures.

Carlet [3] introduced the so-called $${{\mathcal {C}}}$$ class of bent functions that contains all functions of the form

\begin{aligned} f(x,y) = x\cdot \pi (y)\oplus \textbf{1}_{L^{\perp }}(x), \end{aligned}
(8)

where L is any linear subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$, $$\textbf{1}_{L^{\perp }}$$ is the indicator function of the space $$L^{\perp }$$, and $$\pi$$ is any permutation on $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$ such that:

\begin{aligned} (C)\quad \phi (a + L)\hbox { is a flat (affine subspace), for all }a \in \mathbb {F}_2^n,\hbox { where }\phi :=\pi ^{-1}. \end{aligned}

The permutation $$\phi$$ and the subspace L are then said to satisfy the (C) property, or for short $$(\phi ,L)$$ has property (C).

Let us also consider the following example, which gives functions of a different form than those contained in the $${{\mathcal {C}}}$$ class.

### Example 3.2

Let us consider the bent function $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^9(yz^{284}),\ y,z\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{9}}$$. The set $$\mathcal {U}_3=\{1,\omega ^{73},\omega ^{146}\}\times \{0\}=\{\alpha _1,\alpha _2,\alpha _3\}\times \{0\}$$ is a non-trivial defining set for $$f^*$$, where $$\omega$$ is a primitive element in $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{9}}$$ such that $$\omega ^9+\omega ^4+1=0$$. Then, for any polynomial $$G\in \mathbb {F}_2[Y_1,Y_2,Y_3]$$ the function $$h(y,z)=Tr_1^9(yz^{284})+G(Tr_1^9(y),Tr_1^9(\omega ^{73}y),Tr_1^9(\omega ^{146}y))$$ is a bent function in 18 variables. Specifically, if we take $$G(Y_1,Y_2,Y_3)=Y_1Y_2Y_3+ Y_1Y_2 + Y_1Y_3$$ then

\begin{aligned} G(Y_1,Y_2,Y_3)= & {} Tr_1^9(y)Tr_1^9(\omega ^{73}y)Tr_1^9(\omega ^{146}y)+Tr_1^9(y)Tr_1^9(\omega ^{73}y)\\{} & {} +Tr_1^9(\omega ^{73}y)Tr_1^9(\omega ^{146}y). \end{aligned}

We note that $$|\Xi (G)|\ge 2$$ and since $$\pi (z)=z^{284}$$ has no non-zero linear structures, from Theorem 3.2, the function h is outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$. Using Sage we observed that the function G, as a 9-variable Boolean function, contains the value 1 exactly 192 times in its truth table. This means that we have modified the values of $$f \in {\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ at $$192\cdot 2^9$$ places. As 192 is not a power of 2, then h is obviously not a function in the $${{\mathcal {C}}}$$ class.

The following remark further clarifies the possibility of finding a set of linearly independent vectors $$\mu _1, \ldots , \mu _\tau \in \mathbb {F}_2^n$$ satisfying the so-called $$P_\tau$$ property in Theorem 3.1.

### Remark 3.4

Since the dual $$f^*(y,z)=Tr_1^m(z \pi ^{-1}(y))$$ of $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$ is also in $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$, the dual $$f^*$$ admits at least the canonical (trivial) defining set $$\{0\} \times \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$. However, depending on $$\pi$$, there might exist other non-trivial vanishing subspaces $$\langle \mu _1, \ldots , \mu _\tau \rangle$$ (see also Remark 3.1 and the discussion after Remark 4.2) so that $$D_{\mu _i}D_{\mu _j}f^*=0$$ for all $$\mu _i, \mu _j$$ in $$\langle \mu _1, \ldots , \mu _\tau \rangle$$. For instance, if the permutation $$\pi ^{-1}$$ on $$\mathbb {F}_2^5$$ is given as

\begin{aligned} \pi ^{-1}(y)=\begin{pmatrix} y_1\\ y_2\\ y_3 + y_1 y_3 + y_1 y_5\\ y_1 y_3 + y_2 y_3 + y_4\\ y_1 y_3 + y_2 y_4 + y_5 + y_1 y_5 \end{pmatrix}, \end{aligned}
(9)

then the only linear structure of $$\pi$$ is $$s=0$$ but $$\pi ^{-1}$$ has components that admit linear structures. However, the function $$f^*(y,z)=z \cdot \pi ^{-1}(y)$$ has exactly two $$\mathcal {M}$$-subspaces of maximal dimension 5: the canonical $$\mathcal {M}$$-subspace $$\{0_5\} \times \mathbb {F}_2^5$$ as well as V, which is given by:

Consequently, the basis of V can be identified with $$\langle \mu _1, \ldots , \mu _5\rangle$$ which can be used to define a non-trivial defining set, say $$\mathcal {U}_{2}=\{\alpha _1,\alpha _2\}\times \{0_5\}$$ corresponding to the first two rows of V, see also Example 3.1.

## 4 Extending non-trivial defining sets

In what follows, we extend the above result in a more generic way by combining a non-trivial defining set as in Theorem 3.2 with a defining set that uses both variables. That is, we consider the function F in (6) to be of the form

\begin{aligned} F(X_1,X_2,\ldots ,X_{\tau })&=G_1(Tr_1^m(\alpha _1y),\ldots ,Tr_1^m(\alpha _ky))G_2(Tr_1^m(\beta _{k+1}z),\ldots ,Tr_1^m(\beta _{\tau }z))\nonumber \\&\quad + G_3(Tr_1^m(\alpha _1y),\ldots ,Tr_1^m(\alpha _ky)), \end{aligned}
(10)

where $$G_1,G_3$$ and $$G_2$$ are in $$\mathbb {F}_2^{}[X_1,\ldots ,X_r]$$ for $$r=k$$ and $$r=\tau -k$$, respectively. Because the polynomials $$G_1,G_2,G_3$$ are arbitrary, we would like to note that we do not need to consider all variables. That is, the polynomials can depend on any subset of $$\{X_1,\ldots ,X_r\}$$. Nevertheless, we can still obtain bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$, thus providing an additional partial solution to Open Problem 1. With respect to $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$ and its dual $$f^*(y,z)=Tr_1^m(z\pi ^{-1}(y))$$, we define

\begin{aligned} A=\{a_i=(\alpha _i,0):1\le i \le k,\alpha _i\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\};\quad B=\{b_j=(0,\beta _j):k+1\le j \le \tau ,\beta _j\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\} \end{aligned}
(11)

such that $$D_{a_i}D_{a_{i'}}f^*=D_{b_{j}}D_{b_{j'}}f^*=0$$ for any $$a_i,a_{i'}\in A,b_{j},b_{j'}\in B$$, where $$i\ne i'$$ and $$j \ne j'$$.

The following result ensures the bentness of the function h defined by (6) if F is defined by (10).

### Lemma 4.1

Let f be a bent function on $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{n}}$$, $$n=2m$$, defined by $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$ with the dual $$f^*(y,z)=Tr_1^m(z\pi ^{-1}(y))$$. Let h be defined as in (6) with F as in (10), where the functions $$G_i$$ are defined using A and B in (11). The function h is bent if

\begin{aligned} \{D_{\alpha _i}\pi ^{-1}(y):y\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}},(\alpha _i,0)\in A\}\subseteq \langle \beta _i:(0,\beta _i)\in B \rangle ^{\perp }. \end{aligned}
(12)

### Proof

Suppose $$G_1G_2=0$$, i.e. at least one of the functions $$G_1$$ and $$G_2$$ is zero. Then $$F=G_3$$ and the result follows from the property of the set A. Let $$G_1G_2\ne 0$$, i.e. we are now “mixing” the elements from A and B. Let $$a_i=(\alpha _i,0)\in A$$ and $$b_j=(0,\beta _j)\in B$$ be arbitrary. Then,

\begin{aligned} D_{a_i}D_{b_j}f^*(y,z)=D_{(\alpha _i,0)}D_{(0,\beta _j)} (Tr_1^m(z \pi ^{-1}(y)))= Tr_1^m(\beta _jD_{\alpha _i}\pi ^{-1}(y))=0, \end{aligned}

for all $$y\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ as

\begin{aligned} \left\{ D_{\alpha _i}\pi ^{-1}(y):y\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}},(\alpha _i,0)\in A\right\} \subseteq \left\langle \beta _i:(0,\beta _i)\in B \right\rangle ^{\perp }. \end{aligned}

The conclusion follows from Theorem 3.1. $$\square$$

### Remark 4.1

Referring to Remark 3.4, the choice of A and B and the associated functions $$G_i$$ can be deduced from the non-trivial vanishing subspace V of $$f^*$$. More precisely, the set A can be potentially defined using $$(\alpha _1,0)$$ and $$(\alpha _2,0)$$ (corresponding to the first two rows of V) whereas B corresponds to the last three rows of V.

Even though the choice of A and B is relatively easy, the main difficulty in ensuring the bentness of h in Lemma 4.1 is the condition given in Eq. (12) related to the first-order derivatives of $$\pi ^{-1}$$, which is not easily satisfied.

### Theorem 4.1

Let f be a bent function on $$\mathbb {F}_2^n$$, $$n=2m$$, defined with $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))$$ and let A and B be defined by (11) so that $$D_{a_i}D_{a_j}f^*=D_{b_i}D_{b_j}f^*=0$$, for any $$a_i,a_j\in A,b_i,b_j\in B$$ for $$i\ne j$$, where $$a_i=(\alpha _i,0)$$ and $$b_j=(0,\beta _j)$$ for $$\alpha _i,\beta _j \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$. Assume that $$\{D_{\alpha _i}\pi ^{-1}(x):x\in \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\}\subseteq \langle B \rangle ^{\perp }$$ for all $$1\le i\le k$$ and define h as in (6) with F as in (10). If:

1. (a)

$$D_a G_1(y) \ne const$$, for all nonzero $$a \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$,

2. (b)

$$\deg (G_2)>2$$ and $$D_a G_2(y) \ne const$$, for all nonzero $$a \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$,

then h is a bent function outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$.

### Proof

From Lemma 4.1, we have that h is a bent function. For simplicity, we denote $$F(y,z)=G_1(y)G_2(z) + G_3(y)$$ using the dependency through the formal variables $$X_i$$ as in (10). Let V be any m-dimensional subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Let $$a=(a_1,a_2),b=(b_1,b_2)\in V$$ be arbitrary. The second-order derivative of h with respect to a and b can be written as:

\begin{aligned}{} & {} D_{(a_1, a_2)}D_{(b_1, b_2)}h(y,z) \nonumber \\{} & {} \quad =Tr_1^m(y\left( D_{a_2}D_{b_2}\pi (z)\right) + a_1 D_{b_2}\pi (z+ a_2) + b_1 D_{a_2}\pi (z+ b_2))\nonumber \\{} & {} \qquad + D_{a}D_{b}{G_1}(y){G_2}(z) + D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y)\nonumber \\{} & {} \quad =Tr_1^m(y\left( D_{a_2}D_{b_2}\pi (z)\right) + a_1 D_{b_2}\pi (z+ a_2) + b_1 D_{a_2}\pi (z+ b_2))\nonumber \\{} & {} \qquad + {G_1}(y)D_{a_2}D_{b_2}{G_2}(z) + {G_2}(z+ a_2 )D_{a_1}{G_1}(y) \nonumber \\{} & {} \qquad + {G_2}(z+ b_2 )D_{b_1}{G_1}(y)+ {G_2}(z+ a_2+ b_2 )D_{a_1+ b_1}{G_1}(y)\nonumber \\{} & {} \qquad + D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y). \end{aligned}
(13)

We denote the set $$\{(y,0)\mid y\in {\mathbb {F}}_{2^{m}}\}$$ by $$\Delta$$, and consider two cases $$V= \Delta$$ and $$V \ne \Delta$$.

1. a.

For $$V=\Delta$$, there exist two vectors $$(a_1, 0),(b_1, 0) \in \Delta$$ such that $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}{G_1}(y)\ne 0$$ since $$\Delta =\{(y,0)\mid y\in {\mathbb {F}}_{2^{m}}\}$$ and $$G_1$$ has no nonzero linear structure. That is, since $$D_{a_1}G_1(y) \ne const$$, for all $$a_1 \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$, then there must exist $$b_1 \in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$ such that $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_1(y) \ne 0$$. From (13), we get:

\begin{aligned} D_{(a_1, 0)}D_{(b_1, 0)}h(y,z)= & {} {G_2}(z )[D_{a_1}{G_1}(y) + D_{b_1}{G_1}(y)\nonumber \\{} & {} + D_{a_1+ b_1}{G_1}(y)]+D_{a_1}D_{b_1}{G_3}(y) \nonumber \\= & {} {G_2}(z)D_{a_1}D_{b_1}{G_1}(y)+D_{a_1}D_{b_1}{G_3}(y)\ne 0, \end{aligned}
(14)

since $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}{G_1}(y)\ne 0$$. Notice that in (14) we used the fact that $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_1(y)=G_1(y) + G_1(y+a_1) + G_1(y+b_1) + G_1(y+a_1+b_1)=D_{a_1}{G_1}(y) + D_{b_1}{G_1}(y) + D_{a_1+ b_1}{G_1}(y)$$.

2. b.

For $$V\ne \Delta$$, we split the proof into two cases depending on the cardinality of $$V\cap \Delta$$. We set $$V=\left\{ (v_1^{(1)},v_2^{(1)}),(v_1^{(2)},v_2^{(2)}),\ldots , (v_1^{(2^{m})},v_2^{(2^{m})}\right\}$$,

1. (a)

For $$|V\cap \Delta |= 1$$, we have $$v_2^{(i)}\ne v_2^{(j)}$$ for any $$i\ne j$$. As in the proof of Theorem 3.2, we have that $$\{ v_2^{(1)},$$ $$v_2^{(2)},\ldots , v_2^{(2^{m})}\}={\mathbb {F}}_{2^{m}}$$.

Thus, from Lemma 2.1,we can find two vectors $$a,b\in V$$ such that $$D_{a_2}D_{b_2}{G_2}(z)\ne 0$$, since $$\deg (G_2)>2$$.

From (13), we have

\begin{aligned} D_{(a_1, a_2)}D_{(b_1, b_2)}h(y,z)\ne 0, \end{aligned}

since $${G_1}(y)D_{a_2}D_{b_2}{G_2}(z)\ne 0$$, $$\deg (G_1)>1$$ and $$\deg (G_1)>\deg (D_c(G_1))$$, for any $$c\in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$.

2. (b)

For $$|V\cap \Delta |\ge 2$$, without loss of generality, let $$a=(a_1,0)\in V^*\cap \Delta$$, where $$V^*=V{\setminus } (0)$$. Select $$b\in V\setminus \{0,a\}$$ such that $$b_2\ne 0$$. Thus, (13) reduces to

\begin{aligned} D_aD_bh(y,z){} & {} =Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))+G_1(y)G_2(z)+G_1(y+a_1)G_2(z) \nonumber \\{} & {} \quad +G_1(y+b_1)G_2(z+b_2)+G_1(y+a_1+b_1)G_2(z+b_2)\nonumber \\{} & {} \quad + D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y) \nonumber \\{} & {} = Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))+G_2(z)D_{a_1}G_1(y)+G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}G_1(y+b_1) \nonumber \\{} & {} \quad + D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y) \nonumber \\{} & {} = Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))+G_2(z)D_{a_1}G_1(y)+G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}G_1(y+b_1) \nonumber \\{} & {} \quad +D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y) +G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}G_1(y)+G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}G_1(y) \nonumber \\{} & {} = Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))+D_{b_2}G_2(z)D_{a_1}G_1(y)+G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_1(y) \nonumber \\{} & {} \quad + D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y). \end{aligned}
(15)

Since $$\deg (D_cG_1)>\deg (D_cD_d(G_1))$$, for any distinct $$c,d\in \mathbb {F}_{2^m}$$, and $$G_2$$ has no nonzero linear structure, we have that $$D_{b_2}G_2(z)D_{a_1}G_1(y)+G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}D_{b_2}G_1(y)\ne 0$$ (the terms having different nonzero degrees in z and y which cannot be cancelled by the two remaining terms) and thus from (15), we have

\begin{aligned} D_aD_bh(y,z)\ne 0. \end{aligned}

Summarizing all the cases, we conclude that h is outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$. $$\square$$

We emphasize that this is the first time a specific set of conditions for h to be outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ has been given without requiring that the component functions of $$\pi$$ do not admit linear structures. A construction method of bent functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ that belong to the $${{\mathcal {C}}}$$ class, whose permutations admit linear structures, was considered for instance in [13].

### Remark 4.2

Notice the absence of conditions on $$G_3$$, which can also affect the property that $$D_aD_b h \ne 0$$. Essentially, the condition $$Tr_1^m(a_1D_{b_2}\pi (z))+D_{b_2}G_2(z)D_{a_1}G_1(y)+G_2(z+b_2)D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_1(y)+ D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y)$$ for nonzero $$a_1,b_2 \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$ and any $$b_1 \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$ in (15), can be considered in terms of $$G_3$$ as well, thus requiring that $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y) \ne 0$$. The condition that $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}G_3(y) \ne 0$$ can be easily satisfied if we specify $$G_3(y)=\prod _{i=1}^{m}(1+y_i)=\delta _0(y)$$, unless $$b_1=0$$ or $$a_1=b_1$$. However, it is not clear whether the condition that $$D_{a_1}G_1(y) \ne const$$ (alternatively that $$D_{b_2}G_2(z) \ne const$$) in Theorem 4.1 can be then removed.

We notice that it is not necessary to consider the defining sets A and B using the canonical decomposition (as a direct sum) of $$\mathbb {F}_2^m \times \mathbb {F}_2^m$$ into the disjoint subspaces $$\mathbb {F}_2^m \times \{0_m\}$$ and $$\{0_m\} \times \mathbb {F}_2^m$$, so that the elements $$a_i=(\alpha _i,0_m) \in A$$ and $$b_j=(0_m,\beta _j) \in B$$, see (11). We recall that the initial condition on the sets A and B were that $$D_aD_{a'}f^*=0$$ and $$D_bD_{b'}f^*=0$$, for all $$a, a' \in A$$ and all $$b,b' \in B$$. Referring back to Remark 3.4, a non-trivial vanishing subspace V of $$f^*$$ can be used to define $$A=\{(\alpha _i,0_m)\}$$ (taking the first two rows of V) and $$B=\{(0_m,\beta _j)\}$$ (taking the three last rows of V). Nevertheless, by taking another basis of V for which we do not necessarily have the above form for the elements in A and B, we can satisfy that $$D_aD_{a'}f^*=0$$ and $$D_bD_{b'}f^*=0$$ even though $$a_i=(\alpha _i, u_i)$$ and $$b_j=(v_j,\beta _j)$$. In general, we have $$D_{(\alpha _i,u_i)}D_{(v_j,\beta _j)}f^*(y,z)=Tr_1^m(zD_{u_i}D_{\beta _j}\pi ^{-1}(y)+ \alpha _iD_{\beta _j}\pi (y+u_i)+v_jD_{u_i}\pi (y+\beta _j))$$ and it is identically zero for any $$(\alpha _i,u_i),(v_j,\beta _j) \in V$$, whenever V is a vanishing subspace of $$f^*$$.

On the other hand, the decomposition of F in Theorem 3.1 as $$F(y,z)=G_1(y)G_2(z) + G_3(y)$$ is not possible any longer (due to the use of elements of the form $$a_i=(\alpha _i, u_i)$$ and $$b_j=(v_j,\beta _j)$$) and the related conditions for h to be outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ cannot be stated through the properties of $$G_i$$. It is an interesting research challenge to provide a set of sufficient conditions on F(yz) in this general setting (if possible) so that $$h(y,z)=f(y,z)+F(y,z)$$ is a bent function outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$.

### 4.1 Specifying non-trivial defining sets using permutations with linear structures

As already illustrated, a suitable selection of $$\mu _i$$ for a given permutation $$\pi$$ is easily specified using the vanishing subspaces for the dual $$f^*$$. However, one generic method of specifying non-trivial defining sets that stem from permutations with linear structures can also be specified.

### Theorem 4.2

Let $$\pi$$ be a permutation of $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$ and assume that $$S=\langle s_1, \ldots ,s_k\rangle$$ (with $$1 \le k \le m-2$$) is a space of linear structures for $$\pi ^{-1}$$, so that $$\pi ^{-1}(y)+ \pi ^{-1}(y+s_i)=v_i =const \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$, for all $$s \in S$$. Then, the dual of $$f(y,z)=y \cdot \pi (z))$$, where $$y,z \in \mathbb {F}_2^m$$, defined by $$f^*(y,z)=z \cdot \pi ^{-1}(y)$$, admits a non-trivial vanishing subspace $$V=\langle S \times \{0\}, \langle (v_1,0), \ldots , (v_k,0) \rangle ^\perp \rangle$$ of dimension m.

### Proof

As already mentioned, $$D_aD_bf^*(y,z)=0$$ for all $$a,b \in \{0_m\} \times \mathbb {F}_2^m$$, which is a trivial vanishing subspace of $$f^*$$ of maximal dimension m. Now let $$S'=S \times \{0\}$$, with $$\dim (S')=k$$, and extend the basis of $$S'$$ to V by adjoining the basis of $$\langle (v_1,0_m), \ldots , (v_k,0_m) \rangle ^\perp$$, thus adjoining $$m-k$$ linearly independent elements of the form $$(0_m,u_i)$$, where $$i=1, \ldots , m-k$$. Then, $$\dim (V)=m$$. For two different non-zero vectors $$a=(a_1,a_2)$$ and $$b=(b_1, b_2)$$ in V, we compute

\begin{aligned} D_{a}D_{b}f^*(y,z)= & {} z\cdot \left( D_{a_1}D_{b_1}\pi ^{-1}(y)\right) + a_2\cdot D_{b_1}\pi ^{-1}(y+ a_1) + b_2 \cdot D_{a_1}\pi ^{-1}(y+ b_1). \nonumber \end{aligned}

It is clear that for any $$a,b \in S'$$ we have that $$D_{a}D_{b}f^*(y,z)=0$$, since $$a_2=b_2=0_m$$ and furthermore $$D_{a_1}D_{b_1}\pi ^{-1}(y)=0$$. Selecting ab to be of the form $$(0_m,u_i)$$ leads to the same conclusion since $$a_1=b_1=0_m$$. Finally, if $$a \in S'$$ and $$b=(0_m,u_i)$$, then the only term that may not be canceled is $$b_2 \cdot D_{a_1}\pi (y)$$. However, since $$b \in \langle (v_1,0_m), \ldots , (v_k,0_m) \rangle ^\perp$$ and $$D_{a_1}\pi (y)=v_i$$, we have that $$b_2 \cdot D_{a_1}\pi (y)=0$$. $$\square$$

We notice that permutations $$\pi$$ on $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$, described in Theorem 4.2, need to satisfy the conditions of Theorem 4.1 concerning the bentness of h, whereas the property of being outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ can be achieved by a proper choice of $$G_1, G_2$$ and $$G_3$$. More precisely, we need to identify permutations $$\pi$$ on $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$ for which the sets A and B in (11) satisfy that:

• $$D_{a_i}D_{a_{i'}}f^*=D_{b_{j}}D_{b_{j'}}f^*=0$$ for any $$a_i,a_{i'}\in A,b_{j},b_{j'}\in B$$, where $$i\ne i'$$ and $$j \ne j'$$;

• For any specific choice of A and B, Eq. (12) needs to be satisfied.

One possibility of defining (quadratic) permutations that admit more than one linear structure is as follows.

### Proposition 4.1

Assume that $$\sigma$$ is a permutation of $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$ which admits a nonzero linear structure, so that $$\sigma (y) +\sigma (y+a)=v$$. Define

\begin{aligned} \pi (y,y_{m+1}) = (\sigma (y), y_{m+1}), \; y_{m+1} \in \mathbb {F}_2, \end{aligned}

which is then a permutation over $$\mathbb {F}_2^{m+1}$$. Then, both (a, 0) and (a, 1) are non-zero linear structures of $$\pi$$.

### Proof

It is clear that $$\pi$$ is a permutation if $$\sigma$$ is a permutation. For the linear structures, we check that (a, 1) is a nonzero linear structure of $$\pi$$. We have,

\begin{aligned} \pi (y,y_{m+1}) + \pi (y +a,y_{m+1}+1)= (\sigma (y) +\sigma (y+a), y_{m+1} + y_{m+1}+1 ) = (v, 1), \end{aligned}

and similarly one can verify the same for (a, 0). $$\square$$

Since, by Corollary 5 in [8], any quadratic permutation on $$\mathbb {F}_2^4$$ admits at least one nonzero linear structure, the above result allows as to build larger spaces of linear structures for permutations of $$\mathbb {F}_2^m$$, where $$m >4$$.

### Open Problem 2

Find generic methods for specifying permutations with or without linear structures and the associated functions $$G_i$$ so that the conditions in Theorem 4.1 are satisfied.

## 5 Class inclusion of bent functions obtained via $$\mathcal {P}_\tau$$ property

In the recent works [1, 2], the authors provided examples of functions outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$, which they denoted as functions in the $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}$$ and $$\mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}$$ class. Furthermore, in [13], the authors provided conditions for which functions in $${{\mathcal {D}}}_0$$ are provably outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$. We summarize the results below and connect them with the representation of F given by (10):

• $${{\mathcal {D}}}_0$$ case (Theorem 5 in [13]). Let $$m\ge 4$$ be an integer and let $$\pi$$ be a permutation on $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$ with algebraic degree $$\deg (\pi )\ge 3$$. Then the function $$h:\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\rightarrow \mathbb {F}_{2^{}}$$ defined by

\begin{aligned} h(y,z)=Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))+\prod _{i=1}^{m}\left( Tr_1^m(\alpha ^iy)+1\right) =Tr_1^m(y\pi (z))+G_3(y), \end{aligned}

where $$\alpha$$ is a primitive element of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$, is a bent function in $${{\mathcal {D}}}_0$$ outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$.

• $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}$$ case (Proposition 7 in [2]). Let $$f:\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\rightarrow \mathbb {F}_{2^{}}$$ be a bent function defined by $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(yz^d)$$ where $$d(2^s+1)\equiv 1(\text {mod}\ 2^m-1)$$ and $$wt(d)\ge 3$$, s is a positive divisor of m such that m/s is odd. Let $$\alpha$$ be a primitive element of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{s}}$$ and $$\lambda$$ a primitive element of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Then the function

\begin{aligned} h(y,z)= & {} f(y,z)+\prod _{i=1}^{s}\left( Tr_1^m(\alpha ^i y)+1\right) +\prod _{i=1}^{m}\left( Tr_1^m(\lambda ^i y)+1\right) \\= & {} f(y,z)+ G_3^{(1)}(y) + G_3^{(2)}(y) \end{aligned}

is a bent function outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$.

• $$\mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}$$ case ([2, Theorem 11]). Let $$f:\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\times \mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}\rightarrow \mathbb {F}_{2^{}}$$ be a bent function defined by $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(yz^d)$$ where $$d(2^s+1)\equiv 1(\text {mod}\ 2^m-1)$$ and $$wt(d)\ge 3$$, s is a positive divisor of m such that m/s is odd. Let $$E_2$$ be a subfield of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{s}}$$ (which corresponds to a subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$), $$E_1=E_2^{\perp }$$ and $$L\subset E_2$$ be any subspace of $$\mathbb {F}_{2^{m}}$$. Then, the function

\begin{aligned} h(y,z)= & {} f(y,z)+\prod _{\mu _1\in \textbf{b}(E_1)}\left( Tr_1^m(\mu _1 y)+1\right) \prod _{\mu _2\in \textbf{b}(E_2)}\left( Tr_1^m(\mu _2 z)+1\right) \\{} & {} + \prod _{\mu \in \textbf{b}(L)}\left( Tr_1^m(\mu y)+1\right) \\= & {} f(y,z)+ G_1(y)G_2(z) + G_3(y) \end{aligned}

is a bent function outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^{\#}$$, where $$\textbf{b}(\cdot )$$ denotes the basis of a given subspace.

Let us now discuss the relationship between the class $$\mathcal {P}_{\tau }$$ (the class of all bent functions obtained via Theorem 3.1) and the classes $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C},\mathcal{C}\mathcal{D},\mathcal {C},\mathcal {D}$$ and $$\mathcal {D}_0$$. First of all, we notice that the so-called superclasses $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C},\mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}$$ are defined using the addition of exactly two very particular indicators. On the other hand, Theorem 4.1 provides much more general framework since a larger number of suitable indicators can be added to $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(yz)$$. In this context, we observe the following differences and similarities between these classes.

Let us consider the function $$f\in \mathcal {B}_{2m}$$ defined by $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^m(yz)+\delta _0(y)$$. It is easy to note that f is contained in all of the above mentioned classes. In other words,

\begin{aligned} \mathcal {P}_{\tau }\cap \mathcal {C}\cap \mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}\cap \mathcal {D}_0\cap \mathcal {D}\cap \mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}\ne \emptyset . \end{aligned}

From Example 3.2, we observed that the truth table of the function $$f(y,z)=Tr_1^9(yz^{284})\in {\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ on $$\mathbb {F}_2^9 \times \mathbb {F}_2^9$$ was modified in $$2^9\cdot 192$$ places. Thus, it was not modified on a subspace, which implies that $$h\notin {{\mathcal {D}}}_0,{{\mathcal {D}}}$$ or $${{\mathcal {C}}}$$. On the other hand, functions in $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}$$ modify a function in $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}$$ in $$2^m(2^r-1)$$ places [1] which does not correspond to this number either. This is a consequence of the fact that the class $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}$$ uses the addition of two indicators (of two suitable subspaces), whereas the function h in Example 3.2 is defined as

\begin{aligned} h(y,z){} & {} = Tr_1^9\left( yz^{284}\right) + Tr_1^9(y)Tr_1^9\left( \omega ^{73}y\right) Tr_1^9\left( \omega ^{146}y\right) +Tr_1^9(y)\\{} & {} \quad +Tr_1^9\left( \omega ^{73}y\right) Tr_1^9\left( \omega ^{73}y\right) Tr_1^9\left( \omega ^{146}y\right) , \end{aligned}

which corresponds to the addition of three different indicators. Thus, the function $$h\notin \mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}$$. By noting that $$h(y,z)=f(y,z) + G_1(y) + G_2(y) + G_3(y)$$ uses the indicators that do not depend on the z variable, we conclude that $$h\notin \mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}$$. In other words,

\begin{aligned} \mathcal {P}_{\tau }\not \subset (\mathcal {C}\cup \mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}\cup \mathcal {D}_0\cup \mathcal {D}\cup \mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}). \end{aligned}

## 6 Conclusions

In this article, we have analyzed the properties of the so-called $$\mathcal {P}_\tau$$ method of constructing bent functions. We partially answer an open problem in [12] posed by Kan et al. (IEEE Trans Inf Theory, https://doi.org/10.1109/TIT.2022.3140180, 2022) by identifying those instances of bent functions that are provably outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ within this framework. We also demonstrate that the family of bent functions obtained using the $$\mathcal {P}_\tau$$ method is neither included in the classes $${{\mathcal {C}}}, {{\mathcal {D}}},{{\mathcal {D}}}_0$$ nor in the recently introduced classes $$\mathcal{S}\mathcal{C}$$ and $$\mathcal{C}\mathcal{D}$$. Even though we have provided a theoretical framework for using permutations whose components do not admit linear structures, it remains to specify some generic methods of identifying suitable permutations $$\pi$$ that satisfy (12) and the associated functions $$G_i$$ that ensure both bentness and the outside $${\mathcal{M}\mathcal{M}}^\#$$ property of the generated functions.