curve25519-sha256@libssh.org.txt Aris Adamantiadis
21/9/2013
1. Introduction
This document describes the key exchange methode curve25519-sha256@libssh.org
for SSH version 2 protocol. It is provided as an alternative to the existing
key exchange mechanisms based on either Diffie-Hellman or Elliptic Curve Diffie-
Hellman [RFC5656].
The reason is the following : During summer of 2013, revelations from ex-
consultant at NSA Edward Snowden gave proof that NSA willingly inserts backdoors
into softwares, hardware components and published standards. While it is still
believed that the mathematics behind ECC cryptography are still sound and solid,
some people (including Bruce Schneier [SCHNEIER]), showed their lack of confidence
in NIST-published curves such as nistp256, nistp384, nistp521, for which constant
parameters (including the generator point) are defined without explanation. It
is also believed that NSA had a word to say in their definition. These curves
are not the most secure or fastest possible for their key sizes [DJB], and
researchers think it is possible that NSA have ways of cracking NIST curves.
It is also interesting to note that SSH belongs to the list of protocols the NSA
claims to be able to eavesdrop. Having a secure replacement would make passive
attacks much harder if such a backdoor exists.
However an alternative exists in the form of Curve25519. This algorithm has been
proposed in 2006 by DJB [Curve25519]. Its main strengths are its speed, its
constant-time run time (and resistance against side-channel attacks), and its
lack of nebulous hard-coded constants.
The reference version being used in this document is the one described in
[Curve25519] as implemented in the library NaCl [NaCl].
This document does not attempt to provide alternatives to the ecdsa-sha1-*
authentication keys.
2. Key exchange
The key exchange procedure is very similar to the one described chapter 4 of
[RFC5656]. Public ephemeral keys are transmitted over SSH encapsulated into
standard SSH strings.
The following is an overview of the key exchange process:
Client Server
------ ------
Generate ephemeral key pair.
SSH_MSG_KEX_ECDH_INIT -------->
Verify that client public key
length is 32 bytes.
Generate ephemeral key pair.
Compute shared secret.
Generate and sign exchange hash.
<-------- SSH_MSG_KEX_ECDH_REPLY
Verify that server public key length is 32 bytes.
* Verify host keys belong to server.
Compute shared secret.
Generate exchange hash.
Verify server's signature.
* Optional but strongly recommanded as this protects against MITM attacks.
This is implemented using the same messages as described in RFC5656 chapter 4
3. Method Name
The name of this key exchange method is "curve25519-sha256@libssh.org".
4. Implementation considerations
The whole method is based on the curve25519 scalar multiplication. In this
method, a private key is a scalar of 256 bits, and a public key is a point
of 256 bits.
4.1. Private key generation
A 32 bytes private key should be generated for each new connection,
using a secure PRNG. The following actions must be done on the private key:
mysecret[0] &= 248;
mysecret[31] &= 127;
mysecret[31] |= 64;
In order to keep the key valid. However, many cryptographic libraries will do
this automatically.
It should be noted that, in opposition to NIST curves, no special validation
should be done to ensure the result is a valid and secure private key.
4.2 Public key generation
The 32 bytes public key of either a client or a server must be generated using
the 32 bytes private key and a common generator base. This base is defined as 9
followed by all zeroes:
const unsigned char basepoint[32] = {9};
The public key is calculated using the cryptographic scalar multiplication:
const unsigned char privkey[32];
unsigned char pubkey[32];
crypto_scalarmult (pubkey, privkey, basepoint);
However some cryptographic libraries may provide a combined function:
crypto_scalarmult_base (pubkey, privkey);
It should be noted that, in opposition to NIST curves, no special validation
should be done to ensure the received public keys are valid curves point. The
Curve25519 algorithm ensure that every possible public key maps to a valid
ECC Point.
4.3 Shared secret generation
The shared secret, k, is defined in SSH specifications to be a big integer.
This number is calculated using the following procedure:
X is the 32 bytes point obtained by the scalar multiplication of the other
side's public key and the local private key scalar.
The whole 32 bytes of the number X are then converted into a big integer k.
This conversion follows the network byte order. This step differs from
RFC5656.
[RFC5656] http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5656
[SCHNEIER] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/the_nsa_is_brea.html#c1675929
[DJB] http://cr.yp.to/talks/2013.05.31/slides-dan+tanja-20130531-4x3.pdf
[Curve25519] "Curve25519: new Diffie-Hellman speed records."
http://cr.yp.to/ecdh/curve25519-20060209.pdf