Analysis of Lightweight Cryptographic Primitives

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Virginia Tech


Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices have become increasingly popular in the last 10 years, yet also show an acceptance for lack of security due to hardware constraints. The range of sophistication in IoT devices varies substantially depending on the functionality required, so security options need to be flexible. Manufacturers typically either use no security, or lean towards the use of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with a 128-bit key. AES-128 is suitable for the higher end of that IoT device range, but is costly enough in terms of memory, time, and energy consumption that some devices opt to use no security. Short development and a strong drive to market also contribute to a lack in security. Recent work in lightweight cryptography has analyzed the suitability of custom protocols using AES as a comparative baseline. AES outperforms most custom protocols when looking at security, but those analyses fail to take into account block size and future capabilities such as quantum computers. This thesis analyzes lightweight cryptographic primitives that would be suitable for use in IoT devices, helping fill a gap for "good enough" security within the size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints common to IoT devices. The primitives have not undergone comprehensive cryptanalysis and this thesis attempts to provide a preliminary analysis of confidentiality. The first is a single-stage residue number system (RNS) pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) that was shown in previous publications to produce strong outputs when analyzed with statistical tests like the NIST RNG test suite and DIEHARD. However, through analysis, an intelligent multi-stage conditional probability attack based on the pigeonhole principle was devised to reverse engineer the initial state (key) of a single-stage RNS PRNG. The reverse engineering algorithm is presented and used against an IoT-caliber device to showcase the ability of an attacker to retrieve the initial state. Following, defenses based on intentional noise, time hopping, and code hopping are proposed. Further computation and memory analysis show the proposed defenses are simple in implementation, but increase complexity for an attacker to the point where reverse engineering the PRNG is likely no longer viable. The next primitive proposed is a block cipher combination technique based on Galois Extension Field multiplication. Using any PRNG to produce the pseudorandom stream, the block cipher combination technique generates a variable sized key matrix to encrypt plaintext. Electronic Codebook (ECB) and Cipher Feedback (CFB) modes of operation are discussed. Both system modes are implemented in MATLAB as well as on a Texas Instruments (TI) MSP430FR5994 microcontroller for hardware validation. A series of statistical tests are then run against the simulation results to analyze overall randomness, including NIST and the Law of the Iterated Logarithm; the system passes both. The implementation on hardware is compared against a stream cipher variation and AES-128. The block cipher proposed outperforms AES-128 in terms of computation time and consumption for small block sizes. While not as secure, the cryptosystem is more scalable to block sizes used in IoT devices.



Block Cipher, Galois Extension Field, Post-Quantum Cryptography, Pseudorandom Number Generator, Residue Number System