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Vulnerability in #13

sybrenstuvel opened this Issue Dec 7, 2012 · 2 comments


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sybrenstuvel commented Dec 7, 2012

Originally reported by: Sergio Lerner (Bitbucket: Sergio_Demian_Lerner, GitHub: Sergio_Demian_Lerner)

There is a security vulnerability in decrypt/encrypt_bigfile(infile, outfile, pub_key). Depending on the way decrypt_bigfile() is called, it may be possible to do a Bleichenbacher attack.

First note that:

  1. decrypt/encrypt_bigfile() does not implement Authenticated encryption ( nor uses MACs to verify messages before decrypting public key encrypted messages.
  2. decrypt/encrypt_bigfile() does not use hybrid encryption (it uses plain RSA) and has no method for chaining, so block reordering is possible.

We'll force decrypt_bigfile() to implements a perfect Bleichenbacher oracle. The infile (a message) is broken into blocks, and each block is independently encrypted using RSA. That means that an attacker can reorder blocks within a message and still create a valid message. Also the attacker can construct a new message by mixing blocks from other captured messages.


  1. We take a message with several blocks, or duplicate blocks from a single block message.
  2. We modify the first block according to Bleichenbacher attack
  3. We add many copies of the another block (unmodified) afterwards, e.g. 50 blocks.

If the PKCS#1 1.5 padding of the first block is incorrect, then the function decrypt_bigfile() will fail fast. If the padding is correct then the remaining blocks will be checked and that will take additional externally measurable time.

I found a way to implement this attack and break the Bitmessage protocol ( which uses decrypt_bigfile(). See


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sybrenstuvel commented Sep 4, 2015

Original comment by Sybren Stüvel (Bitbucket: sybren, GitHub: sybrenstuvel):

If you can help me fix this, please let me know. Otherwise I'll just add a note to the functions about their insecure nature.


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mgh commented Dec 2, 2016

This attack is based on timing. It seems like this could be fixed by attempting to decrypt all blocks even if one raises an error.

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