International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research

IACR News item: 17 November 2023

Marshall Ball, Yevgeniy Dodis, Eli Goldin
ePrint Report ePrint Report
A backdoored Pseudorandom Generator (PRG) is a PRG which looks pseudorandom to the outside world, but a saboteur can break PRG security by planting a backdoor into a seemingly honest choice of public parameters, $pk$, for the system. Backdoored PRGs became increasingly important due to revelations about NIST’s backdoored Dual EC PRG, and later results about its practical exploitability.

Motivated by this, at Eurocrypt'15 Dodis et al. [21] initiated the question of immunizing backdoored PRGs. A $k$-immunization scheme repeatedly applies a post-processing function to the output of $k$ backdoored PRGs, to render any (unknown) backdoors provably useless. For $k=1$, [21] showed that no deterministic immunization is possible, but then constructed "seeded" $1$-immunizer either in the random oracle model, or under strong non-falsifiable assumptions. As our first result, we show that no seeded $1$-immunization scheme can be black-box reduced to any efficiently falsifiable assumption.

This motivates studying $k$-immunizers for $k\ge 2$, which have an additional advantage of being deterministic (i.e., "seedless"). Indeed, prior work at CCS'17 [37] and CRYPTO'18 [7] gave supporting evidence that simple $k$-immunizers might exist, albeit in slightly different settings. Unfortunately, we show that simple standard model proposals of [37, 7] (including the XOR function [7]) provably do not work in our setting. On a positive, we confirm the intuition of [37] that a (seedless) random oracle is a provably secure $2$-immunizer. On a negative, no (seedless) $2$-immunization scheme can be black-box reduced to any efficiently falsifiable assumption, at least for a large class of natural $2$-immunizers which includes all "cryptographic hash functions."

In summary, our results show that $k$-immunizers occupy a peculiar place in the cryptographic world. While they likely exist, and can be made practical and efficient, it is unlikely one can reduce their security to a "clean" standard-model assumption.

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