Amateurs Produce Amateur Cryptography
Anyone can design a cipher that he himself cannot break. This is why you should uniformly distrust amateur cryptography, and why you should only use published algorithms that have withstood broad cryptanalysis. All cryptographers know this, but non-cryptographers do not. And this is why we repeatedly see bad amateur cryptography in fielded systems.
The latest is the cryptography in the Open Smart Grid Protocol, which is so bad as to be laughable. From the paper:
Dumb Crypto in Smart Grids: Practical Cryptanalysis of the Open Smart Grid Protocol
Philipp Jovanovic and Samuel Neves
Abstract: This paper analyses the cryptography used in the Open Smart Grid Protocol (OSGP). The authenticated encryption (AE) scheme deployed by OSGP is a non-standard composition of RC4 and a home-brewed MAC, the “OMA digest’.”
We present several practical key-recovery attacks against the OMA digest. The first and basic variant can achieve this with a mere 13 queries to an OMA digest oracle and negligible time complexity. A more sophisticated version breaks the OMA digest with only 4 queries and a time complexity of about 2^25 simple operations. A different approach only requires one arbitrary valid plaintext-tag pair, and recovers the key in an average of 144 message verification queries, or one ciphertext-tag pair and 168 ciphertext verification queries.
Since the encryption key is derived from the key used by the OMA digest, our attacks break both confidentiality and authenticity of OSGP.
My still-relevant 1998 essay: “Memo to the Amateur Cipher Designer.” And my 1999 essay on cryptographic snake oil.
ThreatPost article. BoingBoing post.
Note: That first sentence has been called “Schneier’s Law,” although the sentiment is much older.
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