International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Paper: On the Role of the Inner State Size in Stream Ciphers

Erik Zenner
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Abstract: Many modern stream ciphers consist of a keystream generator and a key schedule algorithm. In fielded systems, security of the keystream generator is often based on a large inner state rather than an inherently secure design. Note, however, that little theory on the initialisation of large inner states exists, and many practical designs are based on an ad-hoc approach. As a consequence, an increasing number of attacks on stream ciphers exploit the (re-)initialisation of large inner states by a weak key schedule algorithm. In this paper, we propose a strict separation of keystream generator and key schedule algorithm in stream cipher design. A formal definition of inner state size is given, and lower bounds on the necessary inner state size are proposed. After giving a construction for a secure stream cipher from an insecure keystream generator, the limitations of such an approach are discussed. We introduce the notion of inner state size efficiency and compare it for a number of fielded stream ciphers, indicating that a secure cipher can be based on reasonable inner state sizes. Concluding, we ask a number of open questions that may give rise to a new field of research that is concerned with the security of key schedule algorithms.
  title={On the Role of the Inner State Size in Stream Ciphers},
  booktitle={IACR Eprint archive},
  keywords={secret-key cryptography / stream cipher, keystream generator, inner state},
  note={ 12422 received 5 Jan 2004},
  author={Erik Zenner},