[Resource Topic] 2023/1502: (In)security of stream ciphers against quantum annealing attacks on the example of the Grain 128 and Grain 128a ciphers

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(In)security of stream ciphers against quantum annealing attacks on the example of the Grain 128 and Grain 128a ciphers

Authors: Michał Wroński, Elżbieta Burek, Mateusz Leśniak


The security level of a cipher is a key parameter. While general-purpose quantum computers significantly threaten modern symmetric ciphers, other quantum approaches like quantum annealing have been less concerning. However, this paper argues that a quantum annealer specifically designed to attack Grain 128 and Grain 128a ciphers could soon be technologically feasible. Such an annealer would require 5,751 (6,751) qubits and 77,496 (94,708) couplers, with a qubit connectivity of 225 (249). Notably, the forthcoming D-Wave Advantage 2 with Zephyr topology will feature over 7,000 qubits and 60,000 couplers and a qubit connectivity 20.
This work also shows that modern stream ciphers like Grain 128 and Grain 128a could be vulnerable to quantum annealing attacks. Although the exact complexity of quantum annealing is unknown, heuristic estimates suggest a (\sqrt{N}) exponential advantage over simulated annealing for problems with (N) variables. We detail how to transform algebraic attacks on Grain ciphers into the QUBO problem, making our attack potentially more efficient than classical brute-force methods.
We also show that applying our attack to rescaled versions of the Grain cipher, namely Grain ( l ) and Grain ( la ) versions, where ( l ) represents the key size, leads to our attack overtaking both brute-force and Grover’s attacks for sufficiently large ( l ). This is true, provided that quantum annealing has an exponential advantage over simulated annealing. Specifically, it is sufficient for the time complexity of quantum annealing for problems with ( N ) variables to be e^{N^{\beta}} for any ( \beta < 1 ).
Finally, given the general nature of our attack method, all new ciphers should be scrutinized for vulnerability to quantum annealing attacks and at least match the AES cipher in terms of security level.

ePrint: https://eprint.iacr.org/2023/1502

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