Analysis of burn-in period for RC4 state transition

Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Issue on Statistics in Design and Analysis of Symmetric Ciphers


The internal state of RC4 stream cipher is a permutation over \({\mathbb Z}_{N}\) and its state transition is effectively a transposition or swapping of two elements. How the randomness of RC4 state evolves due to its state transitions has been studied for many years. As the number of swaps increases, the state comes closer to a uniform random permutation. We define the burn-in period of RC4 state transition as the number of swaps required to make the state very close to uniform random permutation under some suitably defined distance measure. Earlier, Mantin in his Master’s thesis (2001) performed an approximate analysis of the burn-in period. In this paper, we perform a rigorous analysis of the burn-in period and in the process derive the exact distribution of the RC4 state elements at any stage.


Bias Burn-in Cryptography Random permutation RC4 State transition Stream cipher 

Mathematics Subject Classification (2010)




The second author worked for this paper during the winter break in 2016 in his Master of Statistics course.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indian Statistical InstituteKolkataIndia

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