Independent Submission D. Atkins Request for Comments: 9021 Veridify Security Category: Informational May 2021 ISSN: 20701721

Use of the Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm with CBOR Object Signing
and Encryption (COSE)
Abstract

This document specifies the conventions for using the Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm (WalnutDSA) for digital signatures with the CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) syntax. WalnutDSA is a lightweight, quantumresistant signature scheme based on Group Theoretic Cryptography with implementation and computational efficiency of signature verification in constrained environments, even on 8 and 16bit platforms.
The goal of this publication is to document a way to use the lightweight, quantumresistant WalnutDSA signature algorithm in COSE in a way that would allow multiple developers to build compatible implementations. As of this publication, the security properties of WalnutDSA have not been evaluated by the IETF and its use has not been endorsed by the IETF.
WalnutDSA and the Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm are trademarks of Veridify Security Inc.
Status of This Memo

This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is published for informational purposes.
This is a contribution to the RFC Series, independently of any other RFC stream. The RFC Editor has chosen to publish this document at its discretion and makes no statement about its value for implementation or deployment. Documents approved for publication by the RFC Editor are not candidates for any level of Internet Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.
Information about the current status of this document, any errata, and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at https://www.rfceditor.org/info/rfc9021.
Copyright Notice

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction 1.1. Motivation 1.2. Trademark Notice 2. Terminology 3. WalnutDSA Algorithm Overview 4. WalnutDSA Algorithm Identifiers 5. Security Considerations 5.1. Implementation Security Considerations 5.2. Method Security Considerations 6. IANA Considerations 6.1. COSE Algorithms Registry Entry 6.2. COSE Key Types Registry Entry 6.3. COSE Key Type Parameters Registry Entries 6.3.1. WalnutDSA Parameter: N 6.3.2. WalnutDSA Parameter: q 6.3.3. WalnutDSA Parameter: tvalues 6.3.4. WalnutDSA Parameter: matrix 1 6.3.5. WalnutDSA Parameter: permutation 1 6.3.6. WalnutDSA Parameter: matrix 2 7. References 7.1. Normative References 7.2. Informative References Acknowledgments Author's Address
1. Introduction

This document specifies the conventions for using the Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm (WalnutDSA) [WALNUTDSA] for digital signatures with the CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) syntax [RFC8152]. WalnutDSA is a Group Theoretic signature scheme [GTC] where signature validation is both computationally and space efficient, even on very small processors. Unlike many hashbased signatures, there is no state required and no limit on the number of signatures that can be made. WalnutDSA private and public keys are relatively small; however, the signatures are larger than RSA and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), but still smaller than most all other quantum resistant schemes (including all hashbased schemes).
COSE provides a lightweight method to encode structured data. WalnutDSA is a lightweight, quantumresistant digital signature algorithm. The goal of this specification is to document a method to leverage WalnutDSA in COSE in a way that would allow multiple developers to build compatible implementations.
As with all cryptosystems, the initial versions of WalnutDSA underwent significant cryptanalysis, and, in some cases, identified potential issues. For more discussion on this topic, a summary of all published cryptanalysis can be found in Section 5.2. Validated issues were addressed by reparameterization in updated versions of WalnutDSA. Although the IETF has neither evaluated the security properties of WalnutDSA nor endorsed WalnutDSA as of this publication, this document provides a method to use WalnutDSA in conjunction with IETF protocols. As always, users of any security algorithm are advised to research the security properties of the algorithm and make their own judgment about the risks involved.
1.1. Motivation

Recent advances in cryptanalysis [BH2013] and progress in the development of quantum computers [NAS2019] pose a threat to widely deployed digital signature algorithms. As a result, there is a need to prepare for a day that cryptosystems such as RSA and DSA, which depend on discrete logarithm and factoring, cannot be depended upon.
If largescale quantum computers are ever built, these computers will be able to break many of the public key cryptosystems currently in use. A postquantum cryptosystem [PQC] is a system that is secure against quantum computers that have more than a trivial number of quantum bits (qubits). It is open to conjecture when it will be feasible to build such computers; however, RSA, DSA, the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), and the EdwardsCurve Digital Signature Algorithm (EdDSA) are all vulnerable if largescale quantum computers come to pass.
WalnutDSA does not depend on the difficulty of discrete logarithms or factoring. As a result, this algorithm is considered to be resistant to postquantum attacks.
Today, RSA and ECDSA are often used to digitally sign software updates. Unfortunately, implementations of RSA and ECDSA can be relatively large, and verification can take a significant amount of time on some very small processors. Therefore, we desire a digital signature scheme that verifies faster with less code. Moreover, in preparation for a day when RSA, DSA, and ECDSA cannot be depended upon, a digital signature algorithm is needed that will remain secure even if there are significant cryptanalytic advances or a largescale quantum computer is invented. WalnutDSA, specified in [WALNUTSPEC], is a quantumresistant algorithm that addresses these requirements.
1.2. Trademark Notice

WalnutDSA and the Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm are trademarks of Veridify Security Inc.
2. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.
3. WalnutDSA Algorithm Overview

This specification makes use of WalnutDSA signatures as described in [WALNUTDSA] and more concretely specified in [WALNUTSPEC]. WalnutDSA is a Group Theoretic cryptographic signature scheme that leverages infinite group theory as the basis of its security and maps that to a oneway evaluation of a series of matrices over small finite fields with permuted multiplicants based on the group input. WalnutDSA leverages the SHA2256 and SHA2512 oneway hash algorithms [SHA2] in a hashthensign process.
WalnutDSA is based on a oneway function, Emultiplication, which is an action on the infinite group. A single Emultiplication step takes as input a matrix and permutation, a generator in the group, and a set of Tvalues (entries in the finite field) and outputs a new matrix and permutation. To process a long string of generators (like a WalnutDSA signature), Emultiplication is iterated over each generator. Due to its structure, Emultiplication is extremely easy to implement.
In addition to being quantum resistant, the two main benefits of using WalnutDSA are that the verification implementation is very small and WalnutDSA signature verification is extremely fast, even on very small processors (including 16 and even 8bit microcontrollers). This lends it well to use in constrained and/or timesensitive environments.
WalnutDSA has several parameters required to process a signature. The main parameters are N and q. The parameter N defines the size of the group by defining the number of strands in use and implies working in an NxN matrix. The parameter q defines the number of elements in the finite field. Signature verification also requires a set of Tvalues, which is an ordered list of N entries in the finite field F_q.
A WalnutDSA signature is just a string of generators in the infinite group, packed into a byte string.
4. WalnutDSA Algorithm Identifiers

The CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE) syntax [RFC8152] supports two signature algorithm schemes. This specification makes use of the signature with appendix scheme for WalnutDSA signatures.
The signature value is a large byte string. The byte string is designed for easy parsing, and it includes a length (number of generators) and type codes that indirectly provide all of the information that is needed to parse the byte string during signature validation.
When using a COSE key for this algorithm, the following checks are made:
 The "kty" field MUST be present, and it MUST be "WalnutDSA".
 If the "alg" field is present, it MUST be "WalnutDSA".
 If the "key_ops" field is present, it MUST include "sign" when creating a WalnutDSA signature.
 If the "key_ops" field is present, it MUST include "verify" when verifying a WalnutDSA signature.
 If the "kid" field is present, it MAY be used to identify the WalnutDSA Key.
5. Security Considerations
5.1. Implementation Security Considerations

Implementations MUST protect the private keys. Use of a hardware security module (HSM) is one way to protect the private keys. Compromising the private keys may result in the ability to forge signatures. As a result, when a private key is stored on non volatile media or stored in a virtual machine environment, care must be taken to preserve confidentiality and integrity.
The generation of private keys relies on random numbers. The use of inadequate pseudorandom number generators (PRNGs) to generate these values can result in little or no security. An attacker may find it much easier to reproduce the PRNG environment that produced the keys, searching the resulting small set of possibilities, rather than brute force searching the whole key space. The generation of quality random numbers is difficult, and [RFC4086] offers important guidance in this area.
The generation of WalnutDSA signatures also depends on random numbers. While the consequences of an inadequate PRNG to generate these values are much less severe than the generation of private keys, the guidance in [RFC4086] remains important.
5.2. Method Security Considerations

The Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm has undergone significant cryptanalysis since it was first introduced, and several weaknesses were found in early versions of the method, resulting in the description of several attacks with exponential computational complexity. A full writeup of all the analysis can be found in [WalnutDSAAnalysis]. In summary, the original suggested parameters (N=8, q=32) were too small, leading to many of these exponential growth attacks being practical. However, current parameters render these attacks impractical. The following paragraphs summarize the analysis and how the current parameters defeat all the previous attacks.
First, the team of Hart et al. found a universal forgery attack based on a groupfactoring problem that runs in O(q^((N1)/2)) with a memory complexity of log_2(q) N^2 q^((N1)/2). With parameters N=10 and q=M31 (the Mersenne prime 2^31  1), the runtime is 2^139 and memory complexity is 2^151. W. Beullens found a modification of this attack but its runtime is even longer.
Next, Beullens and Blackburn found several issues with the original method and parameters. First, they used a PollardRho attack and discovered the original public key space was too small. Specifically, they require that q^(N(N1)1) > 2^(2*Security Level). One can clearly see that (N=10, q=M31) provides 128bit security and (N=10, q=M61) provides 256bit security.
Beullens and Blackburn also found two issues with the original message encoder of WalnutDSA. First, the original encoder was non injective, which reduced the available signature space. This was repaired in an update. Second, they pointed out that the dimension of the vector space generated by the encoder was too small. Specifically, they require that q^dimension > 2^(2*Security Level). With N=10, the current encoder produces a dimension of 66, which clearly provides sufficient security with q=M31 or q=M61.
The final issue discovered by Beullens and Blackburn was a process to theoretically "reverse" Emultiplication. First, their process requires knowing the initial matrix and permutation (which are known for WalnutDSA). But more importantly, their process runs at O(q^((N1)/2)), which for (N=10, q=M31) is greater than 2^128.
A team at Steven's Institute leveraged a lengthshortening attack that enabled them to remove the cloaking elements and then solve a conjugacy search problem to derive the private keys. Their attack requires both knowledge of the permutation being cloaked and also that the cloaking elements themselves are conjugates. By adding additional concealed cloaking elements, the attack requires an N! search for each cloaking element. By inserting k concealed cloaking elements, this requires the attacker to perform (N!)^k work. This allows k to be set to meet the desired security level.
Finally, Merz and Petit discovered that using a Garside Normal Form of a WalnutDSA signature enabled them to find commonalities with the Garside Normal Form of the encoded message. Using those commonalities, they were able to splice into a signature and create forgeries. Increasing the number of cloaking elements, specifically within the encoded message, sufficiently obscures the commonalities and blocks this attack.
In summary, most of these attacks are exponential in runtime and it can be shown that current parameters put the runtime beyond the desired security level. The final two attacks are also sufficiently blocked to the desired security level.
6. IANA Considerations

IANA has added entries for WalnutDSA signatures in the "COSE Algorithms" registry and WalnutDSA public keys in the "COSE Key Types" and "COSE Key Type Parameters" registries.
6.1. COSE Algorithms Registry Entry

The following new entry has been registered in the "COSE Algorithms" registry:
Name: WalnutDSA Value: 260 Description: WalnutDSA signature Reference: RFC 9021 Recommended: No
6.2. COSE Key Types Registry Entry

The following new entry has been registered in the "COSE Key Types" registry:
Name: WalnutDSA Value: 6 Description: WalnutDSA public key Reference: RFC 9021
6.3. COSE Key Type Parameters Registry Entries

The following sections detail the additions to the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry.
6.3.1. WalnutDSA Parameter: N

The new entry, N, has been registered in the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry as follows:
Key Type: 6 Name: N Label: 1 CBOR Type: uint Description: Group and Matrix (NxN) size Reference: RFC 9021
6.3.2. WalnutDSA Parameter: q

The new entry, q, has been registered in the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry as follows:
Key Type: 6 Name: q Label: 2 CBOR Type: uint Description: Finite field F_q Reference: RFC 9021
6.3.3. WalnutDSA Parameter: tvalues

The new entry, tvalues, has been registered in the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry as follows:
Key Type: 6 Name: tvalues Label: 3 CBOR Type: array (of uint) Description: List of Tvalues, entries in F_q Reference: RFC 9021
6.3.4. WalnutDSA Parameter: matrix 1

The new entry, matrix 1, has been registered in the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry as follows:
Key Type: 6 Name: matrix 1 Label: 4 CBOR Type: array (of array of uint) Description: NxN Matrix of entries in F_q in columnmajor form Reference: RFC 9021
6.3.5. WalnutDSA Parameter: permutation 1

The new entry, permutation 1, has been registered in the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry as follows:
Key Type: 6 Name: permutation 1 Label: 5 CBOR Type: array (of uint) Description: Permutation associated with matrix 1 Reference: RFC 9021
6.3.6. WalnutDSA Parameter: matrix 2

The new entry, matrix 2, has been registered in the "COSE Key Type Parameters" registry as follows:
Key Type: 6 Name: matrix 2 Label: 6 CBOR Type: array (of array of uint) Description: NxN Matrix of entries in F_q in columnmajor form Reference: RFC 9021
7. References
7.1. Normative References

[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997, <https://www.rfceditor.org/info/rfc2119>. [RFC8152] Schaad, J., "CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE)", RFC 8152, DOI 10.17487/RFC8152, July 2017, <https://www.rfceditor.org/info/rfc8152>. [RFC8174] Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, May 2017, <https://www.rfceditor.org/info/rfc8174>. [SHA2] National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), "Secure Hash Standard (SHS)", DOI 10.6028/NIST.FIPS.1804, August 2015, <https://doi.org/10.6028/NIST.FIPS.1804>.
[WALNUTDSA]
Anshel, I., Atkins, D., Goldfeld, D., and P. Gunnells, "WalnutDSA(TM): A group theoretic digital signature algorithm", DOI 10.1080/23799927.2020.1831613, November 2020, <https://doi.org/10.1080/23799927.2020.1831613>.
7.2. Informative References

[BH2013] Ptacek, T., Ritter, J., Samuel, J., and A. Stamos, "The Factoring Dead: Preparing for the Cryptopocalypse", August 2013, <https://www.slideshare.net/astamos/bhslides>. [GTC] Vasco, M. and R. Steinwandt, "Group Theoretic Cryptography", ISBN 9781584888369, April 2015, <https://www.crcpress.com/GroupTheoreticCryptography/ VascoSteinwandt/p/book/9781584888369>. [NAS2019] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, "Quantum Computing: Progress and Prospects", DOI 10.17226/25196, 2019, <https://doi.org/10.17226/25196>. [PQC] Bernstein, D., "Introduction to postquantum cryptography", DOI 10.1007/9783540887027, 2009, <https://doi.org/10.1007/9783540887027>. [RFC4086] Eastlake 3rd, D., Schiller, J., and S. Crocker, "Randomness Requirements for Security", BCP 106, RFC 4086, DOI 10.17487/RFC4086, June 2005, <https://www.rfceditor.org/info/rfc4086>.
[WalnutDSAAnalysis]
Anshel, I., Atkins, D., Goldfeld, D., and P. Gunnells, "Defeating the Hart et al, BeullensBlackburn, Kotov MenshovUshakov, and MerzPetit Attacks on WalnutDSA(TM)", May 2019, <https://eprint.iacr.org/2019/472>.
[WALNUTSPEC]
Anshel, I., Atkins, D., Goldfeld, D., and P. Gunnells, "The Walnut Digital Signature Algorithm Specification", PostQuantum Cryptography, November 2018, <https://csrc.nist.gov/projects/postquantumcryptography/ round1submissions>.
Acknowledgments

A big thank you to Russ Housley for his input on the concepts and text of this document.
Author's Address

Derek Atkins
Veridify Security
100 Beard Sawmill Rd, Suite 350
Shelton, CT 06484
United States of AmericaPhone: +1 617 623 3745 Email: datkins@veridify.com