Mind the Gap - A Closer Look at the Security of Block Ciphers against Differential Cryptanalysis

Ralph Ankele, Stefan Kölbl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

572 Downloads (Pure)


Resistance against differential cryptanalysis is an important design criteria
for any modern block cipher and most designs rely on finding some upper bound on probability of single differential characteristics. However, already at EUROCRYPT'91, Lai et al. comprehended that differential cryptanalysis rather uses differentials instead of single characteristics.

In this paper, we consider exactly the gap between these two approaches and
investigate this gap in the context of recent lightweight cryptographic primitives. This shows that for many recent designs like Midori, Skinny or Sparx one has to be careful as bounds from counting the number of active S-boxes only give an inaccurate evaluation of the best differential distinguishers. For several designs we found new differential distinguishers and show how this gap evolves. We found an 8-round differential distinguisher for Skinny-64 with a
probability of $2^{-56.93}$, while the best single characteristic only suggests a probability of $2^{-72}$. Our approach is integrated into publicly available
tools and can easily be used when developing new cryptographic primitives.

Moreover, as differential cryptanalysis is critically dependent on the
distribution over the keys for the probability of differentials, we provide
experiments for some of these new differentials found, in order to confirm that
our estimates for the probability are correct. While for Skinny-64 the distribution
over the keys follows a Poisson distribution, as one would expect, we noticed that Speck-64 follows a bimodal distribution, and the distribution of Midori-64 suggests a large class of weak keys.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSelected Areas in Cryptography 2018
Place of PublicationCalgary, Canada
Number of pages28
EditionLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-10970-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-10969-1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jan 2019
EventSAC 2018 - Calgary, Canada
Duration: 15 Aug 201817 Aug 2018

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science


ConferenceSAC 2018


  • Symmetric-key cryptography
  • differential cryptanalysis
  • lightweight cryptography
  • SAT/SMT solver
  • IoT
  • LBlock
  • Midori
  • Present
  • Prince
  • Rectangle
  • Simon
  • Skinny
  • Sparx
  • Speck
  • Twine

Cite this