Dynamic Transposition Revisited Again

A Ciphers By Ritter Page

A class of serious cipher using Dynamic Transposition combining, in which the known weaknesses of transposition have been identified and eliminated. The result is a practical, fairly-simple and believable block cipher based on fundamentally different principles than conventional block ciphers like DES.

Subject: Dynamic Transposition Revisited Again (long) Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 04:34:02 GMT From: ritter@io.com (Terry Ritter) Message-ID: <3aa467e4.16692236@news.io.com> Newsgroups: sci.crypt Lines: 919 Dynamic Transposition Revisited Again Terry Ritter 2001 Mar 05 ABSTRACT A novel approach to block ciphering is remembered for relevance to modern ciphering issues of strength, analysis and proof. A rare example of a serious transposition cipher, it also demonstrates the simultaneous use of block and stream techniques. INTRODUCTION Over a decade ago, before the web, before PGP, and before "Applied Cryptography," I began to study the different forms of ciphering. One of the things which caught my interest at the time was an apparent dichotomy between substitution and transposition. Emulated huge substitution (e.g., DES) was (and is) the dominant basis for ciphering, but no comparable transposition-based designs exist (at least in the open literature). That begs the question of whether transposition is simply unsuitable for secure ciphering, and if so, why. Subsequent investigations and development produced an article titled "Transposition Cipher with Pseudo-Random Shuffling: The Dynamic Transposition Combiner," published in the January 1991 issue of "Cryptologia" (see: www.io.com/~ritter/ARTS/DYNTRAN2.HTM ). With continuing sci.crypt discussions on stream ciphering, the one-time-pad (OTP) and cipher security proofs, it may be worthwhile to re-visit Dynamic Transposition to see if it has something to offer. As described here, Dynamic Transposition is a class of block cipher, without S-boxes or rounds, and which neither has nor needs avalanche or diffusion. Like a stream cipher, it uses a keyed random number generator (RNG) to perform ciphering on a block-by-block basis. Dynamic Transposition is notable for design clarity, ease of understanding and analysis, and scalability for testing. The general concept of Dynamic Transposition could be expanded into a stand-alone secret-key cipher, or used as the data-ciphering component of a public-key cipher. TRANSPOSITION Specifically, a "transposition" is the simple exchange in position of two symbols within a message or ordered array or vector. A sequence of such exchanges can form any possible mathematical "permutation" of the message. This is the simple re-arrangement of the existing data symbols. But classical transposition ciphers have a number of known weaknesses: The Character Permutation Weakness Classically, a transposition cipher re-positions plaintext, letter-by-letter, to produce ciphertext. As a result, every letter of the plaintext is also visible in the ciphertext. And that invites an opponent to re-position or "anagram" the ciphertext letters in an attempt to find the relatively few plaintexts which would make sense. In contrast, modern transposition need not work on whole character units, but can instead permute each binary-coded character bit-by-bit. This is significant because vastly more messages which make sense -- all but one wrong -- can be created from a heap of bits than from a pile of letters. The Unchanged Values Weakness Classically, one of the problems with transposition has been that it does not change the values of the data, and that can leak information. Consider a plaintext block of all-0's: No permutation will change that block at all, so it will be fully-exposed as ciphertext. Clearly, classic transposition has a hidden strength requirement that plaintext data contain a range of different values. In contrast, modern computer processing can create blocks with an exact balance of 1's and 0's (by adding balancing values to the plaintext). Only as much plaintext as can be balanced is accepted for a block, which is then filled with balancing values. The result is that there will be no weak blocks. The Special Permutation Weakness Classical transposition is often limited to simple processes consistent with hand application, and so tends to traverse only a small subset of all possible permutations. That is a limited keyspace which may support attack. But in a modern computer implementation, efficient permutation algorithms allow us to produce any of the immense number of different permutations with equal probability, provided we have a random sequence to drive the algorithm. One immediate result is a vastly-expanded keyspace. The Repeated Permutation Weakness Classically, each block or message of a transposition cipher is permuted in exactly the same way. So if an opponent acquires multiple messages, it may be possible to find a single permutation which makes both ciphertexts readable, and thus identifies the correct permutation. That attack is called "multiple anagramming." But a modern version of transposition may simply permute each block independently. That is the "dynamic" part of Dynamic Transposition, and it completely voids the multiple anagramming attack. DYNAMIC TRANSPOSITION A Dynamic Transposition cipher is conceptually simple: (1) Collect plaintext data in bit-balanced (or almost bit-balanced) blocks; and (2) Shuffle the bits in those blocks under the control of a keyed pseudorandom sequence. (The cipher designer decides exactly how the sequence is generated and keyed. A complete design will use message keys or other techniques to prevent sequence re-use.) The resulting scrambled blocks are the final ciphertext. | expand | Key ----/---> Large RNG --+ | v | bit-balance Shuffle | PT -------/-------> ------/------> CT | | Fig. 1. Dynamic Transposition General Structure. | (Operations listed above state.) | | First, the key is expanded into the large RNG state. | Then, for each block, plaintext is bit-balanced and | bit-permuted, using the RNG sequence. Ciphering Strength The primary strength in a Dynamic Transposition cipher is the ability to produce any possible block permutation with equal probability (thus requiring an RNG with large internal state), combined with the inability of an opponent to identify which permutation actually occurred. We can expand on this: First, conventional block ciphers are based on the concept of emulating a huge keyed substitution table. One problem with this is that only a tiny -- almost infinitesimal -- fraction of all possible tables can be produced. In one sense, the common assumption that a conventional block cipher represents a random selection from among all possible tables is simply false. And while that may or may not impact strength, it does prevent a clear strength argument: It certainly is possible that the tiny implemented subset of ciphering tables are all related in an exploitable way; to have a proof of strength, we must prove that false. In contrast, Dynamic Transposition supports every possible ciphering permutation. This guarantees a lack of bias in the fundamental ciphering operation, and supports proof on that basis. Next, every form of block ciphering takes a plaintext block to a ciphertext block. Normally, known-plaintext is sufficient to define a specific transformation, which then can be used to attack the cipher. Dynamic Transposition ciphering uses bit-permutation on bit-balanced blocks. Half the data bits are 1's and half are 0's, and many different permutations will produce the exact same ciphertext from the exact same plaintext. Thus, even known-plaintext does not expose the exact ciphering transformation. And since a different permutation is built for every block, there is no opportunity for an opponent to refine a guess, or to repeatedly use defined-plaintext to expose a permutation. In marked contrast to conventional block ciphers, the ciphering transformation in Dynamic Transposition is at least ambiguous and perhaps externally unknowable. The number of different permutations which produce exactly the same ciphertext is huge and unsearchable. Block-Perfect Secrecy When every plaintext block is exactly bit-balanced, any possible plaintext block is some valid bit-permutation of any ciphertext block. So, even if an opponent could exhaustively un-permute a ciphertext block, the result would just be every possible plaintext block. The implication is that no particular plaintext block can be distinguished as the source of the ciphertext. This is a form of balanced, nonlinear combining of the confusion sequence and data: as such, it is related to XOR, Latin squares, Shannon "perfect secrecy," and the one-time-pad (OTP). The inability to distinguish a particular plaintext, even when every possibility is tried, is basically the advantage claimed for the OTP. It is also an advantage which the OTP cannot justify in practice unless we can prove that the OTP keying sequence is unpredictable, which generally cannot be done. That makes the practical OTP exceedingly "brittle", for if the opponents ever do gain the ability to predict the sequence, they may be able to attack many messages, both future and past. That would occur in the context of a system supposedly "proven" secure; as usual, the user would have no indication of security failure. Dynamic Transposition does not depend upon the assumption of sequence unpredictability, because the sequence is hidden by the multitude of different sequences and permutations which would all produce the same ciphertext result. And if the sequence itself cannot be exposed, any predictability in the sequence also cannot be exploited. (That does not mean that Dynamic Transposition cannot be attacked: Brute-force attacks on the keys are still imaginable, which is a good reason to use large random message keys.) Other Distinctions Bit-permutation does have, of course, a substantial execution cost. Dynamic Transposition is just as conceptually simple as, say, "simply" exponentiating a value modulo the product of two large primes. This makes for a simple, transparent design. For example, there are no tables. There are no rounds. Complexity is not used as the basis for a belief in strength. Almost all the components in Dynamic Transposition are well-known cryptographic technology, each of which can be independently understood, evaluated, tested -- and even upgraded, when necessary. As opposed to the graduate-level computational-complexity proofs popular for conventional block ciphers, main-strength analysis of Dynamic Transposition is based on simple 8th-grade combinatorics (which, alas, I occasionally get wrong anyway). WELL-KNOWN COMPONENTS Most of the components used in Dynamic Transposition have been discussed many times. These components include: key hashing, key expansion, a large-state RNG, "Jitterizer" nonlinear filtering, bit-balancing, and random permutation. See, for example: http://www.io.com/~ritter/KEYSHUF.HTM and http://www.io.com/~ritter/CLO2DESN.HTM These links describe other types of cipher, and are offered as convenient descriptions of well-known cipher components. One component which may need some discussion is key-expansion, and the data bit-balancing process is not a conventional cryptographic component. KEY EXPANSION It is intended to key a large amount of state from a small key. One approach is to hash the key into the state of a small Additive RNG; that RNG is then run through nonlinear filtering (e.g., "Jitterizer") into a buffer. When sufficient data have been collected, those data are used as the state of a larger Additive RNG, which is then run through another nonlinear filter and collected in another buffer, and so on. | hash jitterize | Key --/---> buf1 / RNG1 -----/-----> buf2 | | jitterize | buf2 / RNG2 -----/-----> buf3 | | jitterize | bufn / RNGn -----/-----> bufm / RNGm -+ | v | Shuffle | | Fig. 2. Typical Key Expansion. | | The key is hashed into a buffer, which becomes the | state needed to operate a small Additive RNG. At | each expansion step, the RNG output is nonlinearly | filtered into a buffer, until sufficient state is | collected to operate the next larger RNG. The detailed key expansion probably seems more complex than it actually is, since the RNG / Jitterizer can be made general subroutines, and then just called each time with appropriate parameters. In the Cloak2 cipher I used a sequence of RNG's of degree 31, 127, 607 and 3217 for expansion, and degree 9689 for sequence production. Using 32-bit elements, that RNG has 38,756 bytes -- 310,048 bits -- of internal state. BIT-BALANCING Some of the analytic and strength advantages of Dynamic Transposition depend upon having the same number of 1's and 0's in each block, which is called "bit-balance." Any reasonable way of achieving bit-balance should be acceptable. Balancing by Byte Exact bit-balance can be achieved by accumulating data to a block byte-by-byte, only as long as the block can be balanced by adding appropriate bits at the end. Then the block is ciphered, and another block filled. We will always add at least one byte of "balance data" at the end of the data, a byte which will contain both 1's and 0's. Subsequent balance bytes will be either all-1's or all-0's, except for trailing "padding" bytes, of some balanced particular value. We can thus transparently remove the balance data by stepping from the end of the block, past any padding bytes, past any all-1's or all-0's bytes, and past the first byte containing both 1's and 0's. Padding is needed both to allow balance in special cases, and when the last of the data does not completely fill the last block. This method has a minimum expansion of one byte per block, given perfectly balanced binary data. ASCII text may expand by as much as 1/3, which could be greatly reduced with a pre-processing data compression step. Statistical Bit-Balance Approximate or statistical bit-balance can be achieved by creating a sort of Vernam cipher to "randomize" the plaintext. The result can be almost balanced blocks with no expansion at all. A similar concept is called "scrambling" in data-communications; various well-known modem or SONET or other scrambling operations could be used, with some fixed amount of expansion. Either way could be a very reasonable approach; the main disadvantage appears to be the loss of guaranteed exact bit-balance which may reduce theoretical clarity. Alternate Approaches to Bit-Balancing Modern data-communications has developed transformations to produce approximately bit-balanced data and so avoid the need to transport a slow or DC signal component. The key words here seem to be "bounded disparity encoding," of which one example is "8b/10b" or "8b10b." Here, 8-bit values are converted to bit-balanced 10-bit values, constructed so that no more than 5 consecutive 0's or 1's ever occur. This is a fixed 25% expansion, independent of the bit-balance of the source data. For Dynamic Transposition, various bit-balancing approaches might be compared on the basis of balance accuracy, data expansion, computational effort, and so on. Certainly, Dynamic Transposition could directly encipher the already bit-balanced low-level data used in data communications systems. Alternately, Dynamic Transposition might just use bit-balancing hardware. BIT SHUFFLING This is ordinary cryptographic shuffling -- algorithmic permutation -- of bits. It is of course necessary that this be done properly, to achieve a balanced probability for each result, but that is well-known cryptographic technology. (Again, see: http://www.io.com/~ritter/KEYSHUF.HTM .) The usual solution is the well-known algorithm by Durstenfeld, called "Shuffle," which Knuth II calls "Algorithm P (Shuffling)," although any valid permutation generator would be acceptable. We seek to create every possible permutation with equal probability, and thus avoid a subset of cipherings that could have some structure which favors solution. We can treat the accumulated and balanced block as a bit vector and walk through it, shuffling just like we might do with an array of bytes. Shuffling Strength Unfortunately, Shuffle is approximately reversible. If we use only one shuffling, and if the opponents get the permutation, they immediately have a (somewhat imprecise) idea about what sequence produced that permutation. With two independent shufflings, there is no such implication. The sequence generating RNG should have sufficient internal state to allow every possible *pair* of permutations. If there is only enough state in the RNG for a single shuffling, any second shuffling will be correlated to the first by way of the limited RNG state, and, thus, not independent. In this way, knowing the final permutation might allow the development of the double-length shuffling sequence which produced the known permutation. The reason for having enough RNG state for *two* *independent* shufflings is to isolate the sequence generator from the permutation. Two shufflings use twice as much information (sequence) as needed to form a permutation, so two shufflings use twice as much information as the resulting permutation can represent. So even if the opponents do get the final permutation, the uncertainty in the sequence used to build that permutation will be as though we had a one-way Shuffle. A well-known information-theoretic "counting" argument assures that no "reasonable" hash can be reversed, provided substantially more information is hashed than the amount of internal state. This is independent of whether the hash is "cryptographic" or not, and occurs when the amount of internal state is insufficient to distinguish among all possible input data vectors. A similar "insufficient information" argument assures that double shuffling also cannot be reversed. Both hashing and double-shuffling can thus be seen as "information-reducing" functions and major sources of strength in Dynamic Transposition. DECIPHERING We can easily return an encrypted block to plaintext by applying Shuffle exchanges in reverse order. Shuffle might be operated as usual, with the resulting exchange positions simply buffered. When Shuffle has finished, the actual data exchanges are made, last position first. Since we shuffle twice to encipher, we must unshuffle twice to decipher. ANALYSIS Dynamic Transposition is clearly a block cipher: Data must be accumulated into blocks before ciphering can begin. It is not, however, a conventional block cipher. It does not emulate a large substitution. Unlike conventional block ciphers, Dynamic Transposition has no data diffusion, nor is that needed. It has no S-boxes, and so has no weak S-boxes. The only mixing involved is the single mathematically uniform distribution of permutations, so there is no weak mixing. And whereas conventional block ciphers need "modes of operation" to randomize plaintext and thus minimize the ability to mount codebook attacks, Dynamic Transposition does not. While conventional block ciphers generally do not scale down to exhaustively testable size, Dynamic Transposition scales well. Presumably, it could be made to operate on blocks of variable size on a block-by-block basis. Each component also can be scaled down and tested independently. Design Assumptions We do of course assume that "large enough" keys will be used. I have used 992-bit keys, simply because these are conveniently hashed as 32 separate degree-31 CRC operations, and then are easily expanded by a degree-32 Additive RNG working on 32-bit values. Also, when discussing cipher strength, we have a right to assume the key will be random and independent of other key values. Next, we assume that the RNG will have a large internal state. In particular, the RNG state needs to be larger than the information needed for double-shuffling, thus making any pair of permutations equally possible. Even an Additive RNG of degree 9689 with 310,048 bits of internal state is insufficient for the 4096-bit (512-byte) block I would prefer to use. (Two 4k shufflings need about 8192 * 1.25 = 10,240 values, and 10,240 * 1.3 = 13,312 RNG steps.) By limiting the maximum block size to 2048 bits (256 bytes), we only need about 2048 * 2 * 1.25 * 1.3 = 6656 steps per double-shuffle, which the deg-9689 RNG easily handles. The main idea is to first make direct brute force attacks on the key *impractical* by making the key "large enough" and random. That makes it necessary to attack the vastly larger internal state of the internal RNG via leaked information, and we contrive to make that very difficult: By enciphering as data permutation, we avoid ciphering bias by creating any possible permutation with equal probability. By first balancing the data, and by creating a permutation for each block, the resulting permutation is not exposed by simple known-plaintext. Strength is provided by the block size and guaranteed bit-balance, since, when shuffled, a plethora of different permutations will take the plaintext block to exactly the same ciphertext block. There simply is no one permutation which produces the given ciphertext. Many different permutations will produce the given ciphertext, and trying them all is both futile and impractical. So the opponents will not know the permutation -- even with known plaintext. And knowing the permutation would seem to be a necessary (yet not sufficient) condition to attack the internal state of the RNG. But even if the ciphering permutation be somehow discovered, more strength occurs in the fact that another plethora, this time many different RNG sequences, will create that exact same permutation. This prevents an opponent from finding the sequence needed to attack the RNG, even if the permutation is somehow known. Large Numbers It is common, in cipher analysis, to disdain the use of large-number arguments. In practice, opponents do not even attempt to attack well-designed ciphers by straightforward brute force, because such an approach would be hopeless. Ciphers are instead attacked and broken by finding some pattern which will discard huge numbers of possible keys with every test. But such patterns generally occur in the context of complex iterative cipher systems which *can* have defects. In contrast, here we use mathematically-correct permutation algorithms, and no such defect should be present. Conventional Enciphering Space First consider a conventional 64-bit block cipher, such as DES. Such ciphers emulate a substitution table of huge size, but few people understand just how few of all possible tables are actually realized. For Simple Substitution, the number of possible tables is the number of elements or values, factorial: 1. A 64-bit block has 2**64 elements. 2. 2**64 ~= 18446744073709552000 3. 18446744073709552000! ~= 2**(10**21) tables. 4. The DES keyspace is 2**56 tables. (For detailed computation, try: http://www.io.com/~ritter/JAVASCRP/PERMCOMB.HTM .) One might say that DES has a potential keyspace of 2**(10**21) keys, of which 2**56 keys are actually selectable. Thus, DES emulates *ALMOST* *NONE* of the complete substitution keyspace. One effect of this is that the usual assumption that the cipher produces a random selection among all possible tables will never be proven. And trying to prove that the reachable tables have the same statistical characteristics as the universe of all possible tables sounds very hard indeed. Dynamic Transposition Enciphering Space Next, consider a Dynamic Transposition cipher with a tiny 64-bit block: the number of possible enciphering permutations is "just" 64!, or about 2**295.995. But each and every one of these is possible, and, when properly shuffled, equally probable. Dynamic Transposition thus has a flat unbiased With a 64-bit block, there are 2**64 possible block values, but only about 2**60 of these are balanced: [ The number of 1's in a value is binomial: | B(n,k,p) = (nCk) (p**k) (q**n-k) | = (64C32) (.5**32) (.5**32) | = 1.8326E18 * 2.3283E-10 * 2.3283E-10 | = 9.9345E-2 | E = 2**64 * 9.9345E-2 = 1.83259E18 = 2**60.669 or, for binomial computation, try: http://www.io.com/~ritter/JAVASCRP/BINOMPOI.HTM#Binomial ] There are only 2**60 possible results, yet 2**296 different permutations produce those results. So any particular known-plaintext result is produced by about 2**235.326 different permutations. (In fact, we know these must be just the permutations of 1's and the permutations of the 0's, of which there should be (32!)(32!), which is about 2**235.327, a good confirmation.) Somewhere in the set of 2**235 different permutations which each take the given plaintext block to the given ciphertext block is the one which was actually used, which thus might provide insight into the shuffling sequence and RNG state. But without information *beyond* known-plaintext, there would seem to be no way to distinguish the correct permutation from the rest. Adjacent blocks do not help to refine this set, because each block has a new construction. The opponent then looks at 2**235 different permutations and tries to relate those to the shuffling sequence, in an attempt to find the correct sequence and eventually expose the RNG state. But with double shuffling, about 2**296 different shufflings produce any particular permutation, so the opponent now has 2**531 states to think about. This appears to be the consequence of reasoning in the wrong direction through an information-reducing filter. Ultimately, the permutations in different blocks are related, but only in the state of the RNG, which is in the hundred thousand bit range. It is easy to argue that few of those states are possible -- just those which can be selected by the key -- but we already assumed the key to be "large enough" to prevent enumeration or sequential inspection. Knowing that many potential RNG states are impossible does not seem to help unless they can be related in some way to observable values, or otherwise discarded in large groups. Primary strength in Dynamic Transposition is gained by having an enciphering operation which is not exposed by known-plaintext. Secondary strength is provided by double-shuffling. At first glance, it seems that only information which somehow survives passage back through the information-reduction operations without being expanded would be worth using to expose the RNG state. Larger blocks than 64 bits would of course have vastly larger numbers of permutations and shufflings. Sequences of Permutations Any fixed-state RNG must produce sequences in which the values have some relationship to each other. But both "Jitterizer" processing and variable range reduction for shuffling randomly discard RNG values, thus causing the entire rest of the shuffling sequence to change position. Thus, very similar RNG sequences will produce radically different permutations. Nevertheless, abstractly, sequence relationships must exist. But if the sequence is hidden and cannot be isolated, it would seem to be very difficult to use such relationships. In discussions of *practical* strength, an inability to externally detect or measure sequence relationships is as good as not having those relationships in the first place. Similarly, the sequence of enciphering permutations must also have structure. But the permutations are both transient and ambiguous; simply describing the sequence of permutations in any way which reflects upon the creating sequence would seem to be well beyond known capabilities. Key Re-Use and Message Keys In any real system which uses a RNG confusion sequence, it is important that any particular encrypting sequence "never" be re-used. It is also important to be able to use a master key to send multiple messages without reducing the security of the system. This issue is known as "key re-use." We can solve both issues by introducing "message keys." One way to support the re-use of a master key is to create some large, random unknowable value which we call a "message key" and use as the key for data ciphering. Because this can be a completely arbitrary random value (e.g., from a noise generator source), we can repeatedly use the same master key securely. We send message key values to the other end by enciphering each under an unchanging master key. At the other end, the message key is first deciphered, and the exposed random value is used as the key to decipher the data. This is standard stream-cipher technology. The necessary advantage of a message key is to support key-reuse. Another advantage is to prevent attacks which depend upon having the same key across multiple messages. But an even greater advantage is to skip past the small and (probably) structured master or user key to a large, flat-distributed message key. For the past decade I have often used random 992-bit message keys. The concept of a message key pre-dates the similar if more published term "session key." But a "session" refers to the establishment of logical connection in a network or system, a concept which is both unnecessary and extraneous to ciphering per se. Even when a logical session exists, we might want to use different message key on every transmission in a potentially-long session. Thus, the term "session key" simply does not capture the cryptographic essence of the problem. ATTACKS Complex and hard-to-refute conventional block-cipher attacks, such as Differential and Linear Cryptanalysis, would seem to be completely irrelevant to ciphers of the Dynamic Transposition type. Where there are no S-boxes, there are no linear or differential relations in S-boxes. Where there is no emulated table, there is no linear or differential relationship in that table. And where there is no Feistel structure, there is no ability to peel off Feistel layers. To have a block cipher where we can make these statements is really quite remarkable. The classic attack on transposition, "multiple anagramming," is avoided by having a new permutation created for every block. The use of random message keys forces each message to use a different encryption sequence. This also prevents the "bit flipping" sort of defined-plaintext attacks which attempt to reveal the permutation. (It is of course possible to "bit flip" data in transit: Normally we expect cipher systems to include some form of data validation, such as a CRC over all data, with the CRC result enciphered along with the plaintext.) The classic sort of codebook attack is avoided first by having a huge block size, and next by not attempting to re-use the data transformation. Note that conventional block ciphers have the first advantage only to a much smaller extent, and the second advantage not at all, which is exactly why they have and need "modes of operation." Dynamic Transposition does not need modes of operation. Known-plaintext attacks would be a first step in an attempt to attack the RNG as in a stream cipher. But with Dynamic Transposition, known-plaintext does not disclose the enciphering permutation, because a plethora of different bit-permutations will produce exactly the same ciphertext from exactly the same plaintext. Should the opponents somehow find the correct permutation, attempts to find the shuffling RNG sequence would be thwarted by double-shuffling. PROVABLE STRENGTH IN PRACTICE The mere mention of "mathematical proof" in cipher design encounters an apparently widespread misconception that a "proof" must necessarily imply security against "computationally unbounded" opponents. That assumption is not only false, but also seems strange, because over 50 years of mathematical cryptography without result should have taught us to not expect such a proof. Similarly, the apparently endless search for "P=NP" in computational complexity has almost nothing to do with cipher security in practice. If all we needed was a result -- either P=NP or P<>NP -- we could just assume that right now and reap the rewards. What is hoped for is not a proof per se, but instead a new *construction*, which essentially amounts to hoping for a new general attack. But could we really expect any sort of attack to find the correct key among exponential possibilities in non-exponential time, without exploiting other weakness in the cipher? In practice, we need to defeat real opponents who do have computational limitations. In practice, we have very few security guarantees, so even proofs of security against particular attacks would be significant advances. Modern ciphers already do have one universally-accepted proof of statistical strength in practice. Unfortunately, the implications of this example with respect to the possibility for other similar proofs have not been widely recognized. Statistical Strength Against Particular Attack Whenever a cipher uses keys, a correct key always exists. In that sense, every keyed cipher is "weak" and can never be proven strong, but *that* definition of strength is not particularly useful. With respect to keys, we use a statistical definition of strength, which may be useful in general. In this statistical sense, virtually all modern ciphers have -- and use -- a mathematical proof of statistical strength in practice against the particular attack of brute-force against the key. All we need to completely defeat such an attack is a "large enough" keyspace. The argument is simple, fundamental to all keyed ciphers of every type, does not depend upon unproven assumptions, and does not use either number theory or computational complexity. The proven strength of a large keyspace is a wonderful example of an attractive form of strength proof against a particular attack. There is no reason to believe that brute force is the only attack which could be addressed by proof. And since the universally-accepted example uses little advanced math, there would seem to be no reason to believe that advanced math is necessary for such proofs. Consequently, it seems unlikely that expanding mathematical knowledge will solve this sort of proof problem. It may be that current mainstream cipher architectures are just not well suited to proven strength against particular attacks. That possibility would seem to make new ciphers an academic opportunity, rather than the pointless exercise they are generally claimed to be. Information Theoretic Strength Some cipher components -- hashing and other information- reducing operations -- have a form of irreversibility proof, based on "insufficient information" and counting arguments. Strength occurs when external results simply do not contain sufficient information to distinguish all possible input values. Any cipher is limited by the uncertainty of the main key. We avoid this in practice by making the key "large enough." The implication of this is that the key cannot be attacked from the "front end," but instead must be deduced from the ciphering transformation and "back end" leakage. The state for any "linear" RNG can be exposed, provided we have as much known data as the RNG state, and provided also that we know the "position" of the known data with respect to the RNG. But Dynamic Transposition hides both value and position: Value and position are hidden by a "Jitterizer." Value is hidden by hashing. Shuffling implies range- reduction, which is a form of hashing and value hiding. Range-reduction should be implemented by "rejection," which also discards values and thus affects position. All of these operations tend to isolate the RNG from any knowable "back end" sequence. The use of a large-state RNG to drive "back end" processing means there is vastly more state which must be deduced. If it can be shown that Dynamic Transposition with double- shuffling "leaks" at most some fraction of the RNG sequence, we have the basis for an overall proof of strength: We just arrange to re-key the RNG before sufficient information is leaked to allow the RNG state to be reconstructed. When combined with "large enough" keys, the result would be the long-desired proof of statistical strength in practice. SUMMARY A novel, relatively easy-to-design and easy-to-analyze type of cipher has been presented. There would seem to be ample reason to consider Dynamic Transposition to be yet another "in practice unbreakable" cipher, when properly implemented. Nothing in modern cryptography prevents us from creating mathematical proofs of statistical security against particular attacks. Provable cipher security in practice also might be attained if limits for "information leakage" through information-reducing functions could be defined, The unusual clarity and generality of the simple permutation ciphering operation would seem to make Dynamic Transposition a good basis for investigating practical cipher strength proofs. --- Terry Ritter ritter@io.com http://www.io.com/~ritter/ Crypto Glossary http://www.io.com/~ritter/GLOSSARY.HTM

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Last updated: 2001-05-07