Forgery Attacks on RoundReduced ICEPOLE128
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Abstract
ICEPOLE is a family of authenticated encryptions schemes submitted to the ongoing CAESAR competition and in addition presented at CHES 2014. To justify the use of ICEPOLE, or to point out potential weaknesses, thirdparty cryptanalysis is needed. In this work, we evaluate the resistance of ICEPOLE128 against forgery attacks. By using differential cryptanalysis, we are able to create forgeries from a known ciphertexttag pair with a probability of \(2^{60.3}\) for a roundreduced version of ICEPOLE128, where the last permutation is reduced to 4 (out of 6) rounds. This is a noticeable advantage compared to simply guessing the right tag, which works with a probability of \(2^{128}\). As far as we know, this is the first published attack in a noncerespecting setting on roundreduced versions of ICEPOLE128.
Keywords
CAESAR ICEPOLE Forgery Differential cryptanalysis1 Introduction
ICEPOLE is a family of authenticated encryption schemes, which has been presented at CHES 2014 [17] and submitted to CAESAR [16]. CAESAR [18] is an open cryptographic competition aiming to find a suitable portfolio of authenticated encryption algorithms for many use cases. For the first round, 57 candidates have been submitted. Due to the open nature of CAESAR, those candidates have different design goals ranging from highspeed software designs to designs suitable for compact hardware implementations. This makes comparison of the submitted ciphers difficult, which is nevertheless necessary to determine the ciphers for the next rounds. However, all designs have one goal in common: security. Thus, as much security analysis as possible is needed to sort out weak CAESAR candidates and get insight in the security of the others.
The goal of authenticated encryption is to provide confidentiality and authenticity. Our attacks focus solely on the authenticity in a forgery attack. The goal is to manipulate known ciphertexttag pairs in a way such that they are valid with a certain probability. For ICEPOLE128, the intended number of bits of security with respect to authenticity is 128. Therefore we consider only attacks with a success probability above the generic \(2^{128}\) applicable.
Results for ICEPOLE.
Type  Rounds  Probability  

ICEPOLE128  Forgery  3/6  \(2^{14.8}\) 
4/6  \(2^{60.3}\)  
ICEPOLE permutation  Differential characteristic  5  \(2^{104.5}\) 
6  \(2^{258.3}\) 
Related Work. In the submission document [16], the designers bounded the minimum number of active Sboxes in a differential characteristic for the ICEPOLE permutation. They are able to show that for 3 rounds, the minimum number of active Sboxes is 9, and that there are no characteristics with 13 or fewer active Sboxes for 4 rounds. In addition, Morawiecki et al. [16] heuristically searched for differential characteristics. For 5 rounds, their best published differential characteristic has a probability of \(2^{186.2}\), and for 6 rounds \(2^{555.3}\).
Recently, Huang et al. [13] presented staterecovery attacks on ICEPOLE in a noncemisuse scenario. They show that in this scenario, the internal state of ICEPOLE128 and ICEPOLE128a can be recovered with complexity \(2^{46}\), and the internal state of ICEPOLE256a with complexity \(2^{60}\).
Outline. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. We describe the design of ICEPOLE in Sect. 2. Afterwards, we give a highlevel overview about the techniques used to find suitable differential characteristics in Sect. 3, followed by our attacks on roundreduced versions of ICEPOLE in Sect. 4. Finally, we conclude in Sect. 5.
2 Description of ICEPOLE
In this section, we give a short description of ICEPOLE128 as it is specified in the CAESAR design document [16]. For more details about ICEPOLE128 and the other members of the family, we refer to the CAESAR design document [16]. In case of disagreement between the specifications of ICEPOLE128 in the CHES and CAESAR documents, we always stick to the version submitted to CAESAR and the available reference implementations of this version.
2.1 Mode of Operation
Initialization. First, the state S is initialized with a constant value. Afterwards, the 128bit key and the 128bit nonce are xored to the internal state. Then, the 12round variant \(P_{12}\) of the ICEPOLE permutation is applied.
Processing of Data. For processing, the associated data and the plaintext are split into 1024bit blocks, with possibly smaller last blocks. Each of these blocks is padded to 1026 bits. The padding rule is to append a frame bit, followed by a single 1 and zeros until 1026 bits are reached.
After the initialization, the padded secret message number \(\sigma _{SM}\) is xored to the internal state and \(c_{SM}\) is extracted. Then, 6 rounds of the ICEPOLE permutation \(P_{6}\) are applied. After the processing of the secret message number, the associated data blocks \(\sigma _{i}^{AD}\) are padded and injected, separated by the 6round ICEPOLE permutation \(P_6\). The plaintext blocks \(\sigma _{i}^{P}\) are processed in a similar way, except that ciphertext blocks \(c_{i}\) are extracted. For easier comparison with other spongebased [3, 4] primitives, we move the last permutation call \(P_6\) (after the last plaintext block) to the finalization.
2.2 Permutation
Two variants of the ICEPOLE permutation are used: One with 6 rounds, \(P_6\), and one with 12 rounds, \(P_{12}\). Each round R consists of five steps, \(R=\kappa \circ \psi \circ \pi \circ \rho \circ \mu \).

\(\varvec{\mu }\): Mixing of every 20bit slice through an MDS matrix over \(GF(2^5)\).

\(\varvec{\rho }\): Rotation within all 64bit words.

\(\varvec{\pi }\): Reordering of 64bit words (words are swapped).

\(\varvec{\psi }\): Parallel application of 256 identical 5bit Sboxes.

\(\varvec{\kappa }\): Constant addition.
For a detailed description of \(\kappa \), \(\psi \), \(\pi \), \(\rho \), and \(\mu \), we refer to the CAESAR design document [16].
3 Search for Differential Characteristics
As we will see later, the existence of differential characteristics holding with a high probability is crucial for our attacks on roundreduced ICEPOLE128. Since ICEPOLE128 is a bitoriented construction, automatic search tools are helpful for finding complex differential characteristics with a high probability. ICEPOLE128 has a rather big internal state of 1280 bits involving many operations per permutation round. Therefore, we have decided to use the guessanddetermine techniques already used for several attacks on hash functions [12, 14, 15] together with a greedy strategy, which has already been used to find differential characteristics with a high probability for SipHash [10].
We first describe the used concepts for representing differences within the used automatic search tool and propagating them in Sect. 3.1. Then, we give a highlevel overview of our search strategy in Sect. 3.2.
3.1 Generalized Conditions and Propagation
Generalized conditions [8].

Apart from the representation, the propagation of differences (or in this case of the generalized conditions) through the components of the ICEPOLE permutation has to be modeled. Here, we make the distinction between the linear part of one round, consisting of the application of \(\mu \), \(\rho \), and \(\pi \), and the nonlinear part \(\psi \), which is the application of 256 5bit Sboxes. The propagation for each Sbox is done by exhaustively calculating all possible solutions for given input and output differences (basically lookups in the difference distribution table). The propagation of the linear part of each round is modeled by techniques described in [11].
3.2 Search Strategy
 1.
Search for a valid characteristic with a low number of active Sboxes.
 2.
Optimize the probability of the characteristic.
The first phase primarily serves to narrow the search space for the second phase. In this first phase, we search for truncated differentials with as few differentially active Sboxes as possible. In this context, an Sbox is called active if there are differences on its inputs and outputs. The number of active Sboxes sets an upper bound on the best possible probability of a characteristic, since the maximum differential probability of the ICEPOLE Sbox is \(2^{2}\).
In the second phase, we search for the actual characteristic. In fact, just using the truncated differential and searching for the best assignment does not give us the best overall result. As we will see later, we search for characteristics having a special form, where a low number of active Sboxes does not necessarily give the best characteristic. Thus, we only fix the truncated differential for one or two rounds, leaving the other rounds completely undetermined, and search for highprobability characteristics by using the greedy algorithm presented in [10].
In summary, the first phase narrows the search space and gives us a good starting point for the second phase. Then, in the second phase, the actual characteristic is searched.
4 The Attack
The first thing to do when analyzing a cryptographic primitive is to find a promising point to attack. Thus, we explain the observations that have led to the attack on the finalization of ICEPOLE128 using differential cryptanalysis in Sect. 4.1. After that, we discuss our first findings regarding forgeries in Sect. 4.2, and explain the trick leading to an improvement of the attack in Sect. 4.3. Finally, in Sect. 4.4, we show characteristics for 5 and 6 rounds of the ICEPOLE permutation which are not suitable for a forgery, but have a better probability than the best characteristics published by the designers [16].
4.1 Basic Attack Strategy
ICEPOLE uses a spongelike mode of operation like several other CAESAR candidates including Ascon [9], Keyak [6], or NORX [1, 2]. When comparing those Sponge constructions with ICEPOLE, it is noticeable that the last permutation, which separates the last plaintext injection from the extraction of the tag, has much fewer rounds in the case of ICEPOLE compared to the others.
Permutation rounds for some spongelike CAESAR candidates.
Initialization  Data processing  Finalization  

Ascon  12  6  12 
ICEPOLE  12  6  6 
Keyak  12  12  12 
NORX  8  4  8 
4.2 Creating Forgeries
In this section, we first describe the principles of our attack on a high level. Afterwards, we discuss our preliminary results regarding suitable characteristics when just considering the 1024 bits of the ciphertext blocks to inject differences.
Attack Strategy. For creating forgeries with the help of differential characteristics, we have in principle two attack points in spongelike constructions as ICEPOLE128. We can either attack the data processing, or we can perform the attack on the finalization. In both cases, the key to a successful attack lies in the search for a suitable differential characteristic which holds with a high probability.
In case of ICEPOLE, the permutation during the processing of the data and the finalization is equally strong. The requirements on suitable characteristics are less restrictive when attacking the finalization. Thus, attacks on the finalizations are easier to achieve. In addition, the fact that the linear layer is located before the application of the Sboxes comes in handy. ICEPOLE has a state size of 1280 bits. For the generation of the tag, only 128 bits of the 1280 bits are extracted. The other bits do not influence the tag. Since the Sboxes are located at the end of the permutation, 128 of the 256 Sboxes of the last round have no influence on the tag and therefore, do not contribute to the probability of creating a forgery. Moreover, the other 128 Sboxes of the last round only contribute a single bit, which also has a positive effect on the total probability.
Suitable Characteristics. As discussed before, we need characteristics with a good probability, where the input differences lie in the part of the state that can be controlled by a ciphertext block, and where as many of the active Sboxes as possible lie in parts which do not contribute to the probability. However, before we present our results, we describe the findings of the designers [16] and the results by Huang et al. [13].
The designers of ICEPOLE already searched for differential characteristics without any special restrictions. They have found characteristics for 3 rounds with probability \(2^{18.4}\), 4 rounds with \(2^{52.8}\), 5 rounds with \(2^{186.2}\) and 6 rounds with \(2^{555.5}\). Indeed, when considering that the last round of ICEPOLE only contributes partially to the probability, these results look promising from the perspective of an attacker. However, as already observed by Huang et al. [13], these characteristics cannot be used for attacks on the cipher. They showed that if only 1024 bits of a message block are considered suitable for introducing differences, it is impossible to find a 3round path with 9 active Sboxes in the form 414. Moreover, they show that the minimum number of active Sboxes in the first round is 2 in this case.
Our search for suitable characteristics supports their result. If we just consider the 1024 bits of the message block suitable for differences, we can create forgeries for 3 rounds with probability \(2^{25.3}\) and, for 4 rounds with a probability close to \(2^{128}\). However, in the next section, we explain how we improved the probability for the 4round attack to \(2^{60.3}\) by exploiting the padding rule of the last processed plaintext block.
4.3 Exploiting the Padding
ICEPOLE uses at most 1024bit message blocks, which are padded to 1026 bits by appending a frame bit, which is 0 for the last plaintext block, followed by a single 1 and as many zeros until 1026 bits are reached. So using, for instance, a 1016bit block and a 1024bit block (where the last byte fulfills the padding rule applied to the 1016bit block) virtually flips a bit in an otherwise unaccessible part of the state. By using this trick, we are able to use characteristics where only one Sbox is active in the first round.
With these improved differential characteristics, we are able to create forgeries for ICEPOLE128 with the finalization reduced to 3 (out of 6) rounds with probability \(2^{14.8}\), and for 4 rounds (out of 6) with probability \(2^{60.3}\). The characteristics for the 3round attack can be found in Table 4, and for the 4round attack in Table 5 of Appendix A.
The 3round attack on ICEPOLE128 has been verified using the reference implementation ICEPOLE128v1 submitted to CAESAR with a modified number of rounds for permutation \(P_6\). We fixed a random key at the beginning and encrypted random 1024bit messages (last byte of messages has to be equal to the padding 0x2) with random nonces to get 1024bit ciphertexts. The forgeries are created by applying the difference shown in Table 4 to ciphertext and tag and discarding the last byte of the ciphertext. Removing the last byte of the ciphertext introduces a difference at bit 1026. Backed up by our experiments (\(2^{28}\) messagetag pairs), a forgery for roundreduced ICEPOLE128, where the finalization is reduced to 3 out of 6 rounds, can be created with probability \(2^{11.7}\). For the 4round attack, the probability is too low to be verified experimentally. However, parts of the used characteristic which have a high probability have been verified.
To introduce differences with the help of the padding, we can either extend or truncate known ciphertexts. As already discussed before, creating forgeries by truncating the last byte of the ciphertext only works if the last byte of the message before encryption equals the padding. Extending 1016bit ciphertexts requires to guess 8 bits of the internal state correctly and hence decreases the probability by \(2^{8}\). In the case of messages consisting of a fractional number of bytes, 1022bit ciphertexts can be extended, leading to a decrease of \(2^{2}\).
4.4 Characteristics for the Permutation
We also considered characteristics without any special restrictions. We have been able to improve the results published in the design documents. We have found a 5round characteristic with an estimated probability of \(2^{104.5}\) and a 6round characteristic with an estimated complexity of \(2^{258.4}\). The characteristics are given in Tables 6 and 7 of Appendix A. Both characteristics are a perceptible improvement over the characteristics given in the design document [16], which have a probability of \(2^{186.2}\) and \(2^{555.3}\), respectively.
5 Conclusion
In this work, we have analyzed the resistance of ICEPOLE128 against forgery attacks. Our attacks work for versions of ICEPOLE128 where the permutation used during the finalization is reduced to 4 (out of 6) rounds. This means that ICEPOLE128 has a security margin of 2 rounds, which is lower than the 3 rounds expected by the designers [16].
3round characteristic suitable for forgery with probability \(2^{14.8}\).

4round characteristic suitable for forgery with probability \(2^{60.3}\).

5round characteristic with probability \(2^{104.5}\).

6round characteristic with probability \(2^{258.3}\).

Notes
Acknowledgments
The work has been supported in part by the Austrian Science Fund (project P26494N15) and by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and the Styrian Business Promotion Agency (SFG) under grant number 836628 (SeCoS).
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