International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Paper: A Challenging but Feasible Blockwise-Adaptive Chosen-Plaintext Attack on SSL

Gregory V. Bard
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Abstract: This paper introduces a chosen-plaintext vulnerability in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Trasport Layer Security (TLS) protocols which enables recovery of low entropy strings such as can be guessed from a likely set of 2--1000 options. SSL and TLS are widely used for securing communication over the Internet. When utilizing block ciphers for encryption, the SSL and TLS standards mandate the use of the cipher block chaining (CBC) mode of encryption which requires an initialization vector (IV) in order to encrypt. Although the first IV used by SSL is a (pseudo)random string which is generated and shared during the initial handshake phase, subsequent IVs used by SSL are chosen in a deterministic, predictable pattern; in particular, the IV of a message is taken to be the final ciphertext block of the immediately-preceding message, and is therefore known to the adversary. The one-channel nature of web proxies, anonymizers or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), results in all Internet traffic from one machine traveling over the same SSL channel. We show this provides a feasible ``point of entry'' for this attack. Moreover, we show that the location of target data among block boundaries can have a profound impact on the number of guesses required to recover that data, especially in the low-entropy case. The attack in this paper is an application of the blockwise-adaptive chosen-plaintext attack paradigm, and is the only feasible attack to use this paradigm with a reasonable probability of success. The attack will work for all versions of SSL, and TLS version 1.0. This vulnerability and others are closed in TLS 1.1 (which is still in draft status) and OpenSSL after 0.9.6d. It is hoped this paper will encourage the deprecation of SSL and speed the adoption of OpenSSL or TLS 1.1/1.2 when they are finially released.
  title={A Challenging but Feasible Blockwise-Adaptive Chosen-Plaintext Attack on SSL},
  booktitle={IACR Eprint archive},
  keywords={implementation / Blockwise Adaptive, Chosen Plaintext Attack (CPA), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Transport Layer Security (TLS), Cryptanalysis, HTTP-proxy, Initialization Vectors (IV), Cipher Block Chaining (CBC), Virtual Private Networks (VPN).},
  note={Not yet published. See E-print 2004/111 which is similar in theory but very different in the actual attack. 13256 received 5 Apr 2006, last revised 17 Apr 2006},
  author={Gregory V. Bard},