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Section: Research Program

Symmetric cryptology

Symmetric techniques are widely used because they are the only ones that can achieve some major features such as high-speed or low-cost encryption, fast authentication, and efficient hashing. It is a very active research area which is stimulated by a pressing industrial demand. The process which has led to the new block cipher standard AES in 2001 was the outcome of a decade of research in symmetric cryptography, where new attacks have been proposed, analyzed and then thwarted by some appropriate designs. However, even if its security has not been challenged so far, it clearly appears that the AES cannot serve as a Swiss knife in all environments. In particular an important challenge raised by several new applications is the design of symmetric encryption schemes with some additional properties compared to the AES, either in terms of implementation performance (low-cost hardware implementation, low latency, resistance against side-channel attacks...) or in terms of functionalities (like authenticated encryption). The past decade has then been characterized by a multiplicity of new proposals. This proliferation of symmetric primitives has been amplified by several public competitions (eSTREAM, SHA-3, CAESAR...) which have encouraged innovative constructions and promising but unconventional designs. We are then facing up to a very new situation where implementers need to make informed choices among more than 40 lightweight block ciphers (35 are described on or 57 new authenticated-encryption schemes (see Evaluating the security of all these proposals has then become a primordial task which requires the attention of the community.

In this context we believe that the cryptanalysis effort cannot scale up without an in-depth study of the involved algorithms. Indeed most attacks are described as ad-hoc techniques dedicated to a particular cipher. To determine whether they apply to some other primitives, it is then crucial to formalize them in a general setting. Our approach relies on the idea that a unified description of generic attacks (in the sense that they apply to a large class of primitives) is the only methodology for a precise evaluation of the resistance of all these new proposals, and of their security margins. In particular, such a work prevents misleading analyses based on wrong estimations of the complexity or on non-optimized algorithms. It also provides security criteria which enable designers to guarantee that their primitive resists some families of attacks. The main challenge is to provide a generic description which captures most possible optimizations of the attack.