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f7aa17e Apr 22, 2016
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Cryptography Details

Here is a high-level description of how this library works. Any discrepancy between this documentation and the actual implementation will be considered a security bug.

Let's start with the following definitions:

  • HKDF-SHA256(k, n, info, s) is the key derivation function specified in RFC 5869 (using the SHA256 hash function). The parameters are:
    • k: The initial keying material.
    • n: The number of output bytes.
    • info: The info string.
    • s: The salt.
  • AES-256-CTR(m, k, iv) is AES-256 encryption in CTR mode. The parameters are:
    • m: An arbitrary-length (possibly zero-length) message.
    • k: A 32-byte key.
    • iv: A 16-byte initialization vector (nonce).
  • PBKDF2-SHA256(p, s, i, n) is the password-based key derivation function defined in RFC 2898 (using the SHA256 hash function). The parameters are:
    • p: The password string.
    • s: The salt string.
    • i: The iteration count.
    • n: The output length in bytes.
  • VERSION is the string "\xDE\xF5\x02\x00".
  • AUTHINFO is the string "DefusePHP|V2|KeyForAuthentication".
  • ENCRINFO is the string "DefusePHP|V2|KeyForEncryption".

To encrypt a message m using a 32-byte key k, the following steps are taken:

  1. Generate a random 32-byte string salt.
  2. Derive the 32-byte authentication key akey = HKDF-SHA256(k, 32, AUTHINFO, salt).
  3. Derive the 32-byte encryption key ekey = HKDF-SHA256(k, 32, ENCRINFO, salt).
  4. Generate a random 16-byte initialization vector iv.
  5. Compute c = AES-256-CTR(m, ekey, iv).
  6. Combine ctxt = VERSION || salt || iv || c.
  7. Compute h = HMAC-SHA256(ctxt, akey).
  8. Output ctxt || h.

Decryption is roughly the reverse process (see the code for details, since the security of the decryption routine is highly implementation-dependent).

For encryption using a password p, steps 1-3 above are replaced by:

  1. Generate a random 32-byte string salt.
  2. Compute k = PBKDF2-SHA256(SHA256(p), salt, 100000, 32).
  3. Derive the 32-byte authentication key akey = HKDF-SHA256(k, 32, AUTHINFO, salt)
  4. Derive the 32-byte encryption key ekey = HKDF-SHA256(k, 32, ENCRINFO, salt)

The remainder of the process is the same. Notice the reuse of the same salt for PBKDF2-SHA256 and HKDF-SHA256. The prehashing of the password in step 2 is done to prevent a DoS attack using long passwords.

For KeyProtectedByPassword, the serialized key is encrypted according to the password encryption defined above. However, the actual password used for encryption is the SHA256 hash of the password the user provided. This is done in order to provide domain separation between the message encryption in the user's application and the internal key encryption done by this library. It fixes a key replacement chosen-protocol attack.