March 30, 2020
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Google has released a new set of tests it uses to probe cryptographic libraries for vulnerabilities to known attacks. The tests can be used against most kinds of crypto algorithms and the company already has found 40 new weaknesses in existing algorithms.
the tests are called Project Wycheproof, and Google’s engineers designed them to help developers implement crypto libraries without having to become experts. Cryptographic libraries can be quite difficult to implement and making errors can lead to serious security problems. Attackers often will look for weak crypto implementations as a means of circumventing strong encryption in a target app.
“In cryptography, subtle mistakes can have catastrophic consequences, and mistakes in open source cryptographic software libraries repeat too often and remain undiscovered for too long. Good implementation guidelines, however, are hard to come by: understanding how to implement cryptography securely requires digesting decades’ worth of academic literature. We recognize that software engineers fix and prevent bugs with unit testing, and we found that many cryptographic issues can be resolved by the same means,” Daniel Bleichenbacher and Thai Duong, security engineers at Google, said in a post announcing the tool release.
Among the issues that Google’s engineers found with the Project Wycheproof tests is one in ECDH that allows an attacker to recover the private key in some circumstances. The bug is the result of some libraries not checking the elliptic curve points that they get from outside sources.
“Encodings of public keys typically contain the curve for the public key point. If such an encoding is used in the key exchange then it is important to check that the public and secret key used to compute the shared ECDH secret are using the same curve. Some libraries fail to do this check,” Google’s documentation says.
To build the test suite, Google’s cryptographers looked through the public cryptographic literature and implemented known attacks. But Bleichenbacher and Duong cautioned that Project Wycheproof is not a cure-all for crypto weaknesses.
“Passing the tests does not imply that the library is secure, it just means that it is not vulnerable to the attacks that Project Wycheproof tries to detect. Cryptographers constantly discover new weaknesses in cryptographic protocols,” they said.
“Nevertheless, with Project Wycheproof developers and users now can check their libraries against a large number of known attacks without having to sift through hundreds of academic papers or become cryptographers themselves.”
Project Wycheproof can be used to test a number of algorithms, including RSA, AES, and DSA.