Cryptanalysis with COPACOBANA

Tim Güneysu, Timo Kasper, Martin Novotny, Chris­tof Paar, Andy Rupp

IEEE Transactions on Computers, November 2008, vol. 57, no. 11, 2008.


Cryptanalysis of ciphers usually involves massive computations. The security parameters of cryptographic algorithms are commonly chosen so that attacks are infeasible with available computing resources. Thus, in the absence of mathematical breakthroughs to a cryptanalytical problem, a promising way for tackling the computations involved is to build special-purpose hardware exhibiting a (much) better performance-cost ratio than off-the-shelf computers. This contribution presents a variety of cryptanalytical applications utilizing the Cost-Optimized Parallel Code Breaker (COPACOBANA) machine, which is a highperformance low-cost cluster consisting of 120 field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). COPACOBANA appears to be the only such reconfigurable parallel FPGA machine optimized for code breaking tasks reported in the open literature. Depending on the actual algorithm, the parallel hardware architecture can outperform conventional computers by several orders of magnitude. In this work, we will focus on novel implementations of cryptanalytical algorithms, utilizing the impressive computational power of COPACOBANA. We describe various exhaustive key search attacks on symmetric ciphers and demonstrate an attack on a security mechanism employed in the electronic passport (e-passport). Furthermore, we describe time-memory trade-off techniques that can, e.g., be used for attacking the popular A5/1 algorithm used in GSM voice encryption. In addition, we introduce efficient implementations of more complex cryptanalysis on asymmetric cryptosystems, e.g., Elliptic Curve Cryptosystems (ECCs) and number cofactorization for RSA. Even though breaking RSA or elliptic curves with parameter lengths used in most practical applications is out of reach with COPACOBANA, our attacks on algorithms with artificially short bit lengths allow us to extrapolate more reliable security estimates for real-world bit lengths. This is particularly useful for deriving estimates about the longevity of asymmetric key lengths.


Tags: copacobana, ieee