Prime and Prejudice: Primality Testing Under Adversarial Conditions

Martin R. Albrecht, Jake Massimo, Kenneth G. Paterson, Juraj Somorovsky

ACM CCS 2018


Abstract

This work provides a systematic analysis of primality testing under adversarial conditions, where the numbers being tested for primality are not generated randomly, but instead provided by a possibly malicious party. Such a situation can arise in secure messaging protocols where a server supplies Diffie-Hellman parameters to the peers, or in a secure communications protocol like TLS where a developer can insert such a number to be able to later passively spy on client-server data. We study a broad range of cryptographic libraries and assess their performance in this adversarial setting. As examples of our findings, we are able to construct 2048-bit composites that are declared prime with probability 1/16 by OpenSSL's primality testing in its default configuration; the advertised performance is 2−80. We can also construct 1024-bit composites that always pass the primality testing routine in GNU GMP when configured with the recommended minimum number of rounds. And, for a number of libraries (Cryptlib, LibTomCrypt, JavaScript Big Number, WolfSSL), we can construct composites that always pass the supplied primality tests. We explore the implications of these security failures in applications, focusing on the construction of malicious Diffie-Hellman parameters. We show that, unless careful primality testing is performed, an adversary can supply parameters (p,q,g) which on the surface look secure, but where the discrete logarithm problem in the subgroup of order q generated by g is easy. We close by making recommendations for users and developers. In particular, we promote the Baillie-PSW primality test which is both efficient and conjectured to be robust even in the adversarial setting for numbers up to a few thousand bits.

[eprint]

tags: Baillie-PSW test, Diffie-Hellman, Lucas test, Miller-Rabin test, public-key cryptography / Primality testing, TLS