Classes of attacks and security models

Over the years, many different types of attacks on cryptographic primitives and protocols have been identified. The discussion here limits consideration to attacks on encryption and protocols. Attacks on other cryptographic primitives will be given in appropriate chapters.

In § 1.11 the roles of an active and a passive adversary were discussed. The attacks these adversaries can mount may be classified as follows:.

  • 1. A passive attack is one where the adversary only monitors the communication channel. A passive attacker only threatens confidentiality of data.
  • 2. An active attack is one where the adversary attempts to delete, add, or in some other way alter the transmission on the channel. An active attacker threatens data integrity and authentication as well as confidentiality.

A passive attack can be further subdivided into more specialized attacks for deducing plaintext from ciphertext, as outlined in § 1.13.1.

Attacks on encryption schemes

The objective of the following attacks is to systematically recover plaintext from ciphertext, or even more drastically, to deduce the decryption key.

  • 1. A ciphertext-only attack is one where the adversary (or cryptanalyst) tries to deduce the decryption key or plaintext by only observing ciphertext. Any encryption scheme vulnerable to this type of attack is considered to be completely insecure.
  • 2. A known-plaintext attack is one where the adversary has a quantity of plaintext and corresponding ciphertext. This type of attack is typically only marginally more difficult to mount.
  • 3. A chosen-plaintext attack is one where the adversary chooses plaintext and is then given corresponding ciphertext. Subsequently, the adversary uses any information deduced in order to recover plaintext corr esponding to previously unseen ciphertext.
  • 4. An adaptive chosen-plaintext attack is a chosen-plaintext attack wherein the choice of plaintext may depend on the ciphertext received from previous requests.
  • 5. A chosen-ciphertext attack is one where the adversary selects the ciphertext and is then given the corresponding plaintext. One way to mount such an attack is for the adversary' to gain access to the equipment used for decryption (but not the decryption key, which may be securely embedded in the equipment). The objective is then to be able, without access to such equipment, to deduce the plaintext from (different) ciphertext.

6. An adaptive chosen-ciphertext attack is a chosen-ciphertext attack where the choice of ciphertext may depend on the plaintext received from previous requests.

Most of these attacks also apply to digital signature schemes and message authentication codes. In this case, the objective of the attacker is to forge messages or MACs, as discussed in Chapters 11 and 9, respectively.

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