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Most modes require a unique binary sequence, often called an initialization vector (IV), for each encryption operation. The IV has to be non-repeating and, for some modes, random as well. The initialization vector is used to ensure distinct ciphertexts are produced even when the same plaintext is encrypted multiple times independently with the same key. Block ciphers may be capable of operating on more than one block size, but during transformation the block size is always fixed. Block cipher modes operate on whole blocks and require that the last part of the data be padded to a full block if it is smaller than the current block size. There are, however, modes that do not require padding because they effectively use a block cipher as a stream cipher.
The block cipher modes ECB, CBC, OFB, CFB, CTR, and XTS provide confidentiality, but they do not protect against accidental modification or malicious tampering. Modification or tampering can be detected with a separate message authentication code such as CBC-MAC, or a digital signature. The cryptographic community recognized the need for dedicated integrity assurances and NIST responded with HMAC, CMAC, and GMAC. HMAC was approved in 2002 as FIPS 198, The Keyed-Hash Message Authentication Code (HMAC), CMAC was released in 2005 under SP800-38B, Recommendation for Block Cipher Modes of Operation: The CMAC Mode for Authentication, and GMAC was formalized in 2007 under SP800-38D, Recommendation for Block Cipher Modes of Operation: Galois/Counter Mode (GCM) and GMAC.
The cryptographic community observed that compositing (combining) a confidentiality mode with an authenticity mode could be difficult and error prone. They therefore began to supply modes which combined confidentiality and data integrity into a single cryptographic primitive (an encryption algorithm). These combined modes are referred to as authenticated encryption, AE or "authenc". Examples of AE modes are CCM (SP800-38C), GCM (SP800-38D), CWC, EAX, IAPM, and OCB.
Modes of operation are defined by a number of national and internationally recognized standards bodies. Notable standards organizations include NIST, ISO (with ISO/IEC 10116), the IEC, the IEEE, ANSI, and the IETF.
An initialization vector (IV) or starting variable (SV) is a block of bits that is used by several modes to randomize the encryption and hence to produce distinct ciphertexts even if the same plaintext is encrypted multiple times, without the need for a slower re-keying process.
An initialization vector has different security requirements than a key, so the IV usually does not need to be secret. For most block cipher modes it is important that an initialization vector is never reused under the same key, i.e. it must be a cryptographic nonce. Many block cipher modes have stronger requirements, such as the IV must be random or pseudorandom. Some block ciphers have particular problems with certain initialization vectors, such as all zero IV generating no encryption (for some keys).
For OFB and CTR, reusing an IV causes key bitstream re-use, which breaks security. This can be seen because both modes effectively create a bitstream that is XORed with the plaintext, and this bitstream is dependent on the key and IV only.
In CBC mode, the IV must be unpredictable (random or pseudorandom) at encryption time; in particular, the (previously) common practice of re-using the last ciphertext block of a message as the IV for the next message is insecure (for example, this method was used by SSL 2.0). If an attacker knows the IV (or the previous block of ciphertext) before the next plaintext is specified, they can check their guess about plaintext of some block that was encrypted with the same key before (this is known as the TLS CBC IV attack).
A block cipher works on units of a fixed size (known as a block size), but messages come in a variety of lengths. So some modes (namely ECB and CBC) require that the final block be padded before encryption. Several padding schemes exist. The simplest is to add null bytes to the plaintext to bring its length up to a multiple of the block size, but care must be taken that the original length of the plaintext can be recovered; this is trivial, for example, if the plaintext is a C style string which contains no null bytes except at the end. Slightly more complex is the original DES method, which is to add a single one bit, followed by enough zero bits to fill out the block; if the message ends on a block boundary, a whole padding block will be added. Most sophisticated are CBC-specific schemes such as ciphertext stealing or residual block termination, which do not cause any extra ciphertext, at the expense of some additional complexity. Schneier and Ferguson suggest two possibilities, both simple: append a byte with value 128 (hex 80), followed by as many zero bytes as needed to fill the last block, or pad the last block with n bytes all with value n.
CFB, OFB and CTR modes do not require any special measures to handle messages whose lengths are not multiples of the block size, since the modes work by XORing the plaintext with the output of the block cipher. The last partial block of plaintext is XORed with the first few bytes of the last keystream block, producing a final ciphertext block that is the same size as the final partial plaintext block. This characteristic of stream ciphers makes them suitable for applications that require the encrypted ciphertext data to be the same size as the original plaintext data, and for applications that transmit data in streaming form where it is inconvenient to add padding bytes.
In addition, some modes also allow for the authentication of unencrypted associated data, and these are called AEAD (authenticated encryption with associated data) schemes. For example, EAX mode is a double-pass AEAD scheme while OCB mode is single-pass.
Galois/counter mode (GCM) combines the well-known counter mode of encryption with the new Galois mode of authentication. The key feature is the ease of parallel computation of the Galois field multiplication used for authentication. This feature permits higher throughput than encryption algorithms.
GCM is defined for block ciphers with a block size of 128 bits. Galois message authentication code (GMAC) is an authentication-only variant of the GCM which can form an incremental message authentication code. Both GCM and GMAC can accept initialization vectors of arbitrary length. GCM can take full advantage of parallel processing and implementing GCM can make efficient use of an instruction pipeline or a hardware pipeline. The CBC mode of operation incurs pipeline stalls that hamper its efficiency and performance.
Like in CTR, blocks are numbered sequentially, and then this block number is combined with an IV and encrypted with a block cipher E, usually AES. The result of this encryption is then XORed with the plaintext to produce the ciphertext. Like all counter modes, this is essentially a stream cipher, and so it is essential that a different IV is used for each stream that is encrypted.
Counter with cipher block chaining message authentication code (counter with CBC-MAC; CCM) is an authenticated encryption algorithm designed to provide both authentication and confidentiality. CCM mode is only defined for block ciphers with a block length of 128 bits.
Owing to the use of two keys, the authentication key K1 and encryption key K2, naming schemes for SIV AEAD-variants may lead to some confusion; for example AEAD_AES_SIV_CMAC_256 refers to AES-SIV with two AES-128 keys and not AES-256.
AES-GCM-SIV is a mode of operation for the Advanced Encryption Standard which provides similar performance to Galois/counter mode as well as misuse resistance in the event of the reuse of a cryptographic nonce. The construction is defined in RFC 8452.
AES-GCM-SIV is an improvement over the very similarly named algorithm GCM-SIV, with a few very small changes (e.g. how AES-CTR is initialized), but which yields practical benefits to its security "This addition allows for encrypting up to 250 messages with the same key, compared to the significant limitation of only 232 messages that were allowed with GCM-SIV."
Ehrsam, Meyer, Smith and Tuchman invented the cipher block chaining (CBC) mode of operation in 1976. In CBC mode, each block of plaintext is XORed with the previous ciphertext block before being encrypted. This way, each ciphertext block depends on all plaintext blocks processed up to that point. To make each message unique, an initialization vector must be used in the first block.
Decrypting with the incorrect IV causes the first block of plaintext to be corrupt but subsequent plaintext blocks will be correct. This is because each block is XORed with the ciphertext of the previous block, not the plaintext, so one does not need to decrypt the previous block before using it as the IV for the decryption of the current one. This means that a plaintext block can be recovered from two adjacent blocks of ciphertext. As a consequence, decryption can be parallelized. Note that a one-bit change to the ciphertext causes complete corruption of the corresponding block of plaintext, and inverts the corresponding bit in the following block of plaintext, but the rest of the blocks remain intact. This peculiarity is exploited in different padding oracle attacks, such as POODLE.
The propagating cipher block chaining or plaintext cipher-block chaining mode was designed to cause small changes in the ciphertext to propagate indefinitely when decrypting, as well as when encrypting. In PCBC mode, each block of plaintext is XORed with both the previous plaintext block and the previous ciphertext block before being encrypted. Like with CBC mode, an initialization vector is used in the first block.Unlike CBC, decrypting PCBC with the incorrect IV (initialization vector) causes all blocks of plaintext to be corrupt. 2b1af7f3a8