[][src]Enum sequoia_openpgp::policy::HashAlgoSecurity

pub enum HashAlgoSecurity {

Whether the signed data requires a hash algorithm with collision resistance.

Since the context of a signature is not passed to Policy::signature, it is not possible to determine from that function whether the signature requires a hash algorithm with collision resistance. This enum indicates this.

In short, many self signatures only require second pre-image resistance. This can be used to extend the life of hash algorithms whose collision resistance has been partially compromised. Be careful. Read the background and the warning before accepting the use of weak hash algorithms!


Although distinguishing whether signed data requires collision resistance can be used to permit the continued use of a hash algorithm in certain situations, once attacks against a hash algorithm are known, it is imperative to retire the use of the hash algorithm as soon as it is feasible. Cryptoanalytic attacks improve quickly, as demonstrated by the attacks on SHA-1.


Cryptographic hash functions normally have three security properties:

  • Pre-image resistance,
  • Second pre-image resistance, and
  • Collision resistance.

A hash algorithm has pre-image resistance if given a hash h, it is impractical for an attacker to find a message m such that h = hash(m). In other words, a hash algorithm has pre-image resistance if it is hard to invert. A hash algorithm has second pre-image resistance if it is impractical for an attacker to find a second message with the same hash as the first. That is, given m1, it is hard for an attacker to find an m2 such that hash(m1) = hash(m2). And, a hash algorithm has collision resistance if it is impractical for an attacker to find two messages with the same hash. That is, it is hard for an attacker to find an m1 and an m2 such that hash(m1) = hash(m2).

In the context of verifying an OpenPGP signature, we don't need a hash algorithm with pre-image resistance. Pre-image resistance is only required when the message is a secret, e.g., a password. We always need a hash algorithm with second pre-image resistance, because an attacker must not be able to repurpose an arbitrary signature, i.e., create a collision with respect to a known hash. And, we need collision resistance when a signature is over data that could have been influenced by an attacker: if an attacker creates a pair of colliding messages and convinces the user to sign one of them, then the attacker can copy the signature to the other message.

Collision resistance implies second pre-image resistance, but not vice versa. If an attacker can find a second message with the same hash as some known message, they can also create a collision by choosing an arbitrary message and using their pre-image attack to find a colliding message. Thus, a context that requires collision resistance also requires second pre-image resistance.

Because collision resistance is with respect to two arbitrary messages, collision resistance is always susceptible to a birthday paradox. This means that the security margin of a hash algorithm's collision resistance is half of the security margin of its second pre-image resistance. And, in practice, the collision resistance of industry standard hash algorithms has been practically attacked multiple times. In the context of SHA-1, Wang et al. described how to find collisions in SHA-1 in their 2005 paper Finding Collisions in the Full SHA-1. In 2017, Stevens et al. published The First Collision for Full SHA-1, which demonstrates the first practical attack on SHA-1's collision resistance, an identical-prefix collision attack. This attack only gives the attacker limited control over the content of the collided messages, which limits its applicability. However, in 2020, Leurent and Peyrin published SHA-1 is a Shambles, which demonstrates a practical chosen-prefix collision attack. This attack gives the attacker complete control over the prefixes of the collided messages.

A chosen-prefix collision attack works as follows: an attacker chooses two arbitrary message prefixes, and then searches for so-called near collision blocks. These near collision blocks cause the internal state of the hashes to converge and eventually result in a collision, i.e., an identical hash value. The attack described in the SHA-1 is a Shambles paper requires 8 to 10 near collision blocks (512 to 640 bytes) to fully synchronize the internal state.

SHA-1 is a Merkle-Damgård hash function. This means that the hash function processes blocks one after the other, and the internal state of the hash function at any given point only depends on earlier blocks in the stream. A consequence of this is that it is possible to append a common suffix to the collided messages without any additional computational effort. That is, if hash(m1) = hash(m2), then it necessarily holds that hash(m1 || suffix) = hash(m2 || suffix). This is called a length extension attack.

Thus, the SHA-1 is a Shambles attack solves the following:

hash(m1 || collision blocks 1 || suffix) = hash(m2 || collision blocks 2 || suffix)

Where m1, m2, and suffix are controlled by the attacker, and only the collision blocks are controlled by the algorithm.

If an attacker can convince an OpenPGP user to sign a message of their choosing (some m1 || collision blocks 1 || suffix), then the attacker also has a valid signature from the victim for a colliding message (some m2 || collision blocks 2 || suffix).

The OpenPGP format imposes some additional constraints on the attacker. Although the attacker may control the message, the signature is also over a signature packet, and a trailer. Specifically, the following is signed when signing a document:

hash(document || sig packet || 0x04 || sig packet len)

and the [following is signed] when signing a binding signature:

hash(public key || subkey || sig packet || 0x04 || sig packet len)

Since the signature packet is chosen by the victim's OpenPGP implementation, the attacker may be able to predict it, but they cannot store the collision blocks there. Thus, the signature packet is necessarily part of the common suffix, and the collision blocks must occur earlier in the stream.

This restriction on the signature packet means that an attacker cannot convince the victim to sign a document, and then transfer that signature to a colliding binding signature. These signatures necessarily have different signature packets: the value of the signature type field is different. And, as just described, for this attack, the signature packets must be identical, because they are part of the common suffix. Finally, the trailer, which contains the signature packet's length, prevents hiding a signature in a signature.

Given this, if we know for a given signature type that an attacker cannot control any of the data that is signed, then that type of signature does not need collision resistance; it is still vulnerable to an attack on the hash's second pre-image resistance (a collision with a specific message), but not one on its collision resistance (a collision with any message). This is the case for binding signatures, and direct key signatures. But, it is not normally the case for documents (the attacker may be able to control the content of the document), certifications (the attacker may be able to control the the key packet, the User ID packet, or the User Attribute packet), or certificate revocations (the attacker may be able to control the key packet).

Certification signatures and revocations signatures can be further divided into self signatures and third-party signatures. If an attacker can convince a victim into signing a third-party signature, as was done in the SHA-1 is a Shambles, they may be able to transfer the signature to a colliding self signature. If we can show that an attacker can't collide a self signature, and a third-party signature, then we may be able to show that self signatures don't require collision resistance. The same consideration holds for revocations and third-party revocations.

We first consider revocations, which are more straightforward. The attack is the following: an attacker creates a fake certificate (A), and sets the victim as a designated revoker. They then ask the victim to revoke their certificate (V). The attacker than transfers the signature to a colliding self revocation, which causes the victim's certificate (V) to be revoked.

A revocation is over a public key packet and a signature packet. In this scenario, the attacker controls the fake certificate (A) and thus the public key packet that the victim actually signs. But the victim's public key packet is determined by their certificate (V). Thus, the attacker would have to insert the near collision blocks in the signature packet, which, as we argued before, is not possible. Thus, it is safe to only use a hash with pre-image resistance to protect a self-revocation.

We now turn to self signatures. The attack is similar to the SHA-1 is a Shambles attack. An attacker creates a certificate (A) and convinces the victim to sign it. The attacker can then transfer the third-party certification to a colliding self signature for the victim's certificate (V). If successful, this attack allows the attacker to add a User ID or a User Attribute to the victim's certificate (V). This can confuse people who use the victim's certificate. For instance, if the attacker adds the identity alice@example.org to the victim's certificate, and Bob receives a message signed using the victim's certificate (V), he may think that Alice signed the message instead of the victim. Bob won't be tricked if he uses strong authentication, but many OpenPGP users use weak authentication (e.g., TOFU) or don't authenticate keys at all.

A certification is over a public key packet, a User ID or User Attribute packet, and a signature packet. The attacker controls the fake certificate (A) and therefore the public key packet, and the User ID or User Attribute packet that the victim signs. However, to trick the victim, the User ID packet or User Attribute packet needs to correspond to an identity that the attacker appears to control. Thus, if the near collision blocks are stored in the User ID or User Attribute packet of A, they have to be hidden to avoid making the victim suspicious. This is straightforward for User Attributes, which are currently images, and have many places to hide this type of data. However, User IDs are are normally UTF-8 encoded RFC 2822 mailboxes, which makes hiding half a kilobyte of binary data impractical. The attacker does not control the victim's public key (in V). But, they do control the malicious User ID or User Attribute that they want to attack to the victim's certificate (V). But again, the near collision blocks have to be hidden in order to trick Bob, the second victim. Thus, the attack has two possibilities: they can hide the near collision blocks in the fake public key (in A), and the User ID or User Attribute (added to V); or, they can hide them in the fake User IDs or User Attributes (in A and the one added to V).

As evidenced by the SHA-1 is a Shambles attack, it is possible to hide near collision blocks in User Attribute packets. Thus, this attack can be used to transfer a third-party certification over a User Attribute to a self signature over a User Attribute. As such, self signatures over User Attributes need collision resistance.

The final case to consider is hiding the near collision blocks in the User ID that the attacker wants to add to the victim's certificate. Again, it is possible to store the near collision blocks there. However, there are two mitigating factors. First, there is no place to hide the blocks. As such, the user must be convinced to ignore them. Second, a User ID is structure: it normally contains a UTF-8 encoded RFC 2822 mailbox. Thus, if we only consider valid UTF-8 strings, and limit the maximum size, we can dramatically increase the workfactor, which can extend the life of a hash algorithm whose collision resistance has been weakened.



The signed data only requires second pre-image resistance.

If a signature is over data that an attacker cannot influence, then the hash function does not need to provide collision resistance. This is only the case for:

  • Subkey binding signatures
  • Primary key binding signatures
  • Self revocations

Due to the structure of User IDs (they are normally short, UTF-8 encoded RFC 2822 mailboxes), self signatures over short, reasonable User IDs (not User Attributes) also don't require strong collision resistance. Thus, we also only require a signature with second pre-image resistance for:

  • Self signatures over reasonable User IDs

The signed data requires collision resistance.

If a signature is over data that an attacker can influence, then the hash function must provide collision resistance. This is the case for documents, third-party certifications, and third-party revocations.

Note: collision resistance implies second pre-image resistance. Thus, when evaluating whether a hash algorithm has collision resistance, we also check whether it has second pre-image resistance.

Trait Implementations

impl Clone for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

impl Copy for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

impl Debug for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

impl Default for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

fn default() -> Self[src]

The default is the most conservative policy.

impl Eq for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

impl PartialEq<HashAlgoSecurity> for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

impl StructuralEq for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

impl StructuralPartialEq for HashAlgoSecurity[src]

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