How To Break XML Encryption
Tibor Jager, Juraj Somorovsky
In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS), 2011.
XML Encryption was standardized by W3C in 2002, and is implemented in XML frameworks of major commercial and open-source organizations like Apache, redhat, IBM, and Microsoft. It is employed in a large number of major web- based applications, ranging from business communications, e-commerce, and financial services over healthcare applications to governmental and military infrastructures.
In this work we describe a practical attack on XML Encryption, which allows to decrypt a ciphertext by sending related ciphertexts to a Web Service and evaluating the server response. We show that an adversary can decrypt a ciphertext by performing only 14 requests per plaintext byte on average. This poses a serious and truly practical security threat on all currently used implementations of XML Encryption.
In a sense the attack can be seen as a generalization of padding oracle attacks (Vaudenay, Eurocrypt 2002). It exploits a subtle correlation between the block cipher mode of operation, the character encoding of encrypted text, and the response behaviour of a Web Service if an XML message cannot be parsed correctly.
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