[noise] Extra key derivation - use cases, mechanisms

Trevor Perrin trevp at trevp.net
Sat Feb 25 10:16:32 PST 2017

Mulling over "rekey" and "extra key derivation" some more:

I'm thinking "rekey" is a good use case for additional key derivation,
thus worth supporting in the spec, but other use cases are better
handled by applications.

Discussion below, contrasting with TLS at several points.  TLS is the
most elaborate example of extra key derivation (e.g. the "resumption",
"traffic", and "exporter" secrets in TLS 1.3).  So it's worth looking
closely and seeing what that accomplishes.

Use cases:

(1) REKEY:  Deriving a new key k = F(k), where F is a one-way
function, has obvious value for forward secrecy.  For maximum
flexibility, it should be up to the application if and when to rekey.
However, the mechanism should be very efficient so it could be used
frequently (e.g. after every transport message).

TLS 1.3 has focused on less-frequent rekey to limit the data under
each cipher key, rather than high-frequency rekey for forward-secrecy.
They've found it acceptable to store an additional "traffic secret"
for rekeying, to send an encrypted message to trigger each update, and
to perform 3 HMACs per update.  I think we'd prefer something more

(2) RESUMPTION:  We might want a key (or keys) from an earlier session
to be used as a PSK for a later session.  This could be handled by
having the application transmit the PSK, instead of deriving the PSK
from other keys:

(a) Security-wise, transmitting the PSK makes it easier for a single
session to associate different PSKs with different identifiers or
tickets.  This would enable the PSKs to be deleted individually after
they are used, for forward secrecy.  By comparison, in TLS 1.3 the
server can send multiple new tickets in one session, but all tickets
are bound to the session's single resumption PSK.

(b) Security-wise, a transmitted PSK would be protected by the current
encryption key, so would get forward-secrecy benefit from rekeying.
This is harder to achieve if resumption PSKs are derived.

For example, in TLS 1.3 the resumption PSK is automatically derived in
the handshake, and is not updated by rekey.   Suppose the server gives
the client a resumption PSK which is used right away for a parallel
session.  The client can't delete the resumption PSK without losing
the ability to get and use additional session tickets from the initial
session, so the forward-secrecy benefit of rekey doesn't apply to the
parallel session.

(c) Efficiency-wise, deriving the PSK would seem to save transmission
of 32 bytes.  However, if the PSK is transmitted to the client then
the server can choose its value.  Thus, instead of storing the PSK
inside the session ticket, the server could derive the PSK from a
server-side stored key plus the (username, timestamp, and other unique
identifiers in the session ticket).  With this, the message-size
difference might be small - maybe just several bytes if an extra
identifier is needed.

(3) RENEGOTIATION:  We might want to renegotiate a session by
performing a new handshake "inside" an existing session, which was
supported in TLS prior to 1.3.  The new session would need to bind the
old session, e.g. by including the old session's "h" as the new
session's prologue.  If this was done, then the new handshake would
only be accepted if performed inside the session identified by "h".
This would convince each party that the other party knows the old
session's keys, so there would be no need to also use a PSK from the
old session.

(4) CHANNEL BINDING: TLS uses an "exporter" mechanism to derive a
channel binding value, but Noise just uses the handshake hash "h" for
channel binding.  This is simpler, particularly because "h" is defined
at all points during the Noise handshake.  By contrast, the TLS
"exporter secret" and "early exporter" secrets are only calculated at
specific points, so deriving a channel binding from them might not
bind more-recently transmitted data.

mechanism is used in EAP-TLS, where the TLS handshake is embedded in
some other protocol (EAP), but after the handshake the TLS traffic
keys are discarded and some other key is exported.

Alternatively, the traffic key could have been used, instead of
discarded.  Similarly, if a Noise handshake is being used as part of
some other protocol, the two keys output from Split could simply be
repurposed.  Different prologues and/or payloads would prevent
cross-protocol attacks in case of key-reuse.

(6) MISC:  Are there other uses for something like "TLS Exporters"?

In general, a premise of Noise (or TLS) is that two parties can
communicate over a secure channel.  If cases arise where they need to
share small secret keys, they can just transmit them  (point 2,
above).  I'm not seeing much gained by special-casing this as "key
export" instead of "data transmission".

That said, we've reserved the MAXINT nonce for key derivation.  So we
should continue to reserve the ability to do some sort of export /
extra key derivation using this, for general future-proofing.


In the next draft, I'll try to add a rekey() method on CipherState
that just encrypts 32 bytes of zeros using the MAXINT nonce and then
sets k to the first 32 bytes of output.  Using this method would be up
to the application.

I'll also allow cipher functions to override this with a more specific
rekey (e.g. for AESGCMSIV we could do something more efficient instead
of going through the entire encryption process).

And I'll mention that this doesn't preclude using the MAXINT nonce
from deriving additional secrets (e.g. encrypting 64 bytes of zeros,
and using the next 32 bytes for something else).

Thoughts / objections?


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