Leon Groot Bruinderink presented at CHES a cache-attack against the signature scheme BLISS, a joint work with Andreas Hulsing, Tanja Lange and Yuval Yarom.

The speaker first gave a brief introduction on BLISS (Bimodal Lattice Signature Scheme), a signature scheme whose security is based on lattice problems over NTRU lattices. Since such problems are believed to be hard even if in the presence of quantum computers, BLISS is a candidate for being a cryptographic primitive for the post-quantum world. In addition, its original authors proposed implementations making BLISS a noticeable example of a post-quantum algorithm deployable in real use-cases.

Informally speaking, a message $\mu$ is encoded in a challenge polynomial $\mathbf{c}$, which is then multiplied by the secret key $\mathbf{s}$ according to the following formula: $$ \mathbf{z} = \mathbf{y} + (-1)^b ( \mathbf{s} \cdot \mathbf{c} ) $$ where the bit $b$ and the noise polynomial $\mathbf{y}$ are unknown to the attacker. It is easy to see that if the attacker gains information about the noise polynomial, some linear algebra operations would lead her to the secret key. The coordinates of $\mathbf{y}$ are independently sampled from a discrete Gaussian distribution, which is implementable in several ways. The ones targeted in the paper are CDT and rejection samplings. In particular, the first method was also covered during the talk therefore I am focusing only on that in this blog post.

The idea behind CDT sampling is precomputing a table according to the cumulative distribution function of the discrete Gaussian, drawing a random element and considering it as an index in the table. The element in the cell indexed by the random number is returned. In the end, elements returned by such a procedure will be distributed statistically close to a discrete Gaussian. Although being fast, this has the drawback of needing to store a large table, fact that it is known to be vulnerable to cache-attacks.

The peculiarity of the attack carried out by Bruinderink \emph{et al.} is that, since the algorithm does not return the exact cache lines in which the sampling table is accessed, the equations learned are correct up to a small error, say $\pm 1$. The authors managed to translate such an issue into a shortest vector problem over lattices. Then, they run LLL algorithm to solve the problem and retrieve correct equations.

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