[curves] libsecp256k1's novel(?) ECDSA verification optimization

Rene Struik rstruik.ext at gmail.com
Wed Mar 23 06:01:35 PDT 2016

Hi Brian:

With ECDSA, one has R:=(1/s)(eG+rQ), where e:=h(m), and r= x(R) mod n.

If R=(X, Y, Z) in Jacobian coordinates, then x(R)=X/(Z^2), where 
computations are over GFp.

One has x(R) Z^2 = X, which is equivalent to r Z^2 = X only if the 
modular reduction mod n does not do anything. For secp256k1, one has 
n<p, so for the tiny fraction of x(R)'s in the interval [n,p-1], this 
yields the wrong result.

The equation is always correct, had ECDSA been defined with r=x(R), 
i.e., without the mod n reduction step to compute r.

Please note that if x(R) in the interval [n,p-1], then r=x(R) mod n is 
in the interval [0,p-n-1], so one could still apply the trick in the 
vast majority of cases, by simply incorporating a test on whether r > 
p-n-1 and applying the trick if so.

Best regards, Rene

On 3/23/2016 8:16 AM, Brian Smith wrote:
> Hi,
> [I am not sure if boring topics like ECDSA are appropriate for this 
> list. I hope this is interesting enough.]
> ECDSA signature verification is quite expensive. A big part of why it 
> is expensive is the two inversions--one mod q, one mod n--that are 
> typically used.
> A while back I stumbled across an interesting optimization [1] in 
> libsecp256k1. The optimization completely avoids the second inversion 
> during verification.
> The comments in the code explain how, but here's a rough summary: 
> Normally we convert the Jacobian coordinates (X, Y, Z) of the point 
> multiplication result to affine (X, Y) so that the affine X coordinate 
> can be compared to the signature's R component. The conversion to 
> affine coordinates requires the inversion of Z. But, instead of doing 
> that, we can simply multiply the signature's R component by Z**2 and 
> then compare it with the *Jacobian* X coordinate, avoiding any inversion.
> I asked Greg Maxwell, the author of that code, about it and he didn't 
> know of anybody else using this optimization.
> The optimization has two important properties:
> 1. It make verification notably (but not hugely) faster.
> 2. It reduces the amount of code required by an enjoyable amount, if 
> one is writing prime- specific specialized inversion routines.
> Two questions:
> 1. Does anybody know of prior published software or papers documenting 
> this?
> 2. Does anybody know why it would be a bad idea to use this technique? 
> I.e. am I overlooking some reason why it doesn't actually work?
> [1] 
> https://github.com/bitcoin/secp256k1/blob/269d4227038b188128353235a272a8f030c307b1/src/ecdsa_impl.h#L225-L253 
> (shortened: https://git.io/vad3K)
> Thanks,
> Brian
> -- 
> https://briansmith.org/
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email: rstruik.ext at gmail.com | Skype: rstruik
cell: +1 (647) 867-5658 | US: +1 (415) 690-7363

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