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Object Oriented Crypto API

  It seems to me that one of the reasons why crypto isn't being incorporated
into lots of applications is because there is no good general purpose
plug-n-play crypto-library.  I mean something that is so easy to use
that a Visual Basic programmer would understand it. I've had personal
experience with RSA's BSAFE library and I have to admit, it has
a better software architecture than any of the cypherpunk attempts.
It's highly portable and highly object oriented. Algorithms can be
dropped in and out easily. But it suffers from not being user
extensible, not having a variety of algorithms, and faking
object-orientation in C.  I think we can do better. (and we're not
as legally restricted as they are) We also need an architecture
that will facilitate collective work so that we do not duplicate

  I recently checked out Crypto++ by Wei Dai. It's a real tour de
force of algorithms, and probably violates more patents in a single
piece of software than any in history. ;-) But it has some small design
quirks, and with a little bit of modification on the user interface
side (leveraging the code already written), I think it can be improved
by leaps and bounds. (IMHO)

  C++ will be our language of choice. A C-to-C++ API will be discussed
later. Note: in some parts, only pseudo-C++ is used, so don't expect this
to pass a C++ grammar.

The Design Goal
  The goal is to define an architecture permitting a simple API which
can perform all of the standard cryptographic operations (Encryption,
Signing, Key Management, etc) without strict dependency on any
algorithm, file format, or I/O mechanism. An application writer
should be able to incorporate cryptography into his application
without worrying about fileformats, key management, cryptographic
algorithms, or distribution. He should be able to seemlessly operate
on PEM messages, pgp files, etc without even knowing what the files
are. (I've looked at GSSAPI, it addresses different issues)

Here's a first-pass API:

Encrypt(EncryptionAlgorithm, EncryptionKey, PlainText, CipherText)
Decrypt(DecryptionAlgorithm, DecryptionKey, CipherText, PlainText)
Sign(SignatureAlgorithm, PrivateKey, PlainText, Signature)
Verify(VerifierAlgorithm, PublicKey, PlainText, Signature)
GetKey(KeyDomain, KeyId, Key)
PutKey(KeyDomain, KeyId, Key)
GenerateKey(EncryptionAlgorithm, RandomNumberGenerator, Key)

That's it, just 7 functions to perform almost all cryptographic
algorithms in the universe. P-Key and Symmetric systems aren't even
treated differently. A few more could be added to the API, but that's
the gist. Now let's look at how we will accomplish this abstraction.

Polymorphism is your friend

  While Crypto++ does have an object hierarchy, polymorphism is rarely
used. For instance, the Sign function signs raw data, not "Digests"
It does sign a Digest if you give it raw data that is a Digest, but
the point is, the function doesn't know. The idea of Signing should
be abstracted above and away from low-level representations and
the underlying cryptosystem itself.

(this philosophy of abstraction is drawn strongly from STL - the
standard template library which is a C++ working draft. It's a
great library design)

  Let's look at a single example: The Encrypt function.

  All encryption algorithms have a property in common, whether it is
a public key system, a symmetric block cipher, or a stream cipher: the
encryption key. Therefore, they can all be treated as-a member of a class
of EncryptionAlgorithm objects which implement a function called
encrypt(), which takes some plaintext, an encryption key, and outputs
some ciphertext. Nothing magical here, simple object-orientation.

A hypothetical abstract base EncryptionAlgorithm class might look like:

class EncryptionAlgorithm
  virtual encrypt(EncryptionKey& key, PlainText& p, CipherText& c) = 0;
  virtual EncryptionKey generate_key(RandomNumberGenerator& rng) = 0;

And a possible concrete class:

class DESEncryptAlgorithm : public EncryptionAlgorithm
  typedef DESEncryptionKey keytype;
  encrypt(DESEncryptionKey& key, PlainText& p, CipherText& c);
  keytype generate_key(RandomNumberGenerator& rng);

So to encrypt something with DES, you'd instantiate a DESEncryptionAlgorithm,
say labeled des, generate a key by asking the class to generate one, and
then call

Encrypt(des, deskey, plaintext, ciphertext);

But that 'des' could have just as well been a RSAEncryptionAlgorithm class,
in which case, the plaintext would have been encrypted with an rsa
public key (independent of whether DES or IDEA is being used as the
underlying BlockCipher)

Our design methodology throughout this article will be to look for common
behavior between algorithms and where it is found, define an abstract
base class around that behavior. Any specialization will be handled by

The case for Decrypt() looks almost identical, in fact, we could
overload Encrypt(), and call them both Crypt() and have assymetrical
ciphers work like symmetric ciphers. (the compiler would detect
a DecryptionAlgorithm instead of EncryptionAlgorithm and do the
neccessary magic) I feel this is a bad design decision because
it is confusing and removes some type safety. The processes of
encryption and decryption are semantically different, therefore
they deserve separate interfaces.

Now that you've see an example, let's proceed with the design.

Signature systems typically sign "Message Digests", so intuition should
lead us to assume that we must have a "MessageDigest" object which
a SignatureAlgorithm may sign. "Message Digests" are generally produced
by one-way secure hash algorithms, so we also need a SecureHashAlgorithm
object that computes a MessageDigest given a PlainText. A MessageDigest
should be convertable to a BitString for signing. Finally, a signature
should be abstracted into a Signature class which has an equality
condition. With those thoughts, here's a proposed class.

class SignatureAlgorithm
  SecureHashAlgorithm& hashref;
  SignatureAlgorithm(SecureHashAlgorithm& h);
  virtual Signature sign(PublicKey, PlainText, CipherText) = 0;

class Signature
  virtual operator==(Signature& s) = 0;
  // functions to cast to/from bitstring

Concrete example:

class RSASignature : public Signature { };

class RSASignatureAlgorithm: public SignatureAlgorithm,
			     private RSADecryptionAlgorithm
	                    (privately inherited because
                             the relationship is "implemented-in-terms-of")
  typedef RSADecryptionAlgorithm::keytype keytype;
  typedef RSASignature sigtype;	
  RSASignatureAlgorithm(SecureHashAlgorithm& h) :
	SignatureAlgorithm(h) {  }
  sigtype sign(keytype& privatekey, Plaintext& p, CipherText& c)
	    decrypt(privatekey, hashref.digest(p), c);
	    return sigtype(c); /* signature constructed from signed
                                  message digest bitstring */

Notice how the message digest (hash) algorithm is a polymorphic type. When
the object is constructed, it can be told to use any hash algorithm
independent of hash size, etc.

Verification works similarly. A concrete example

class RSAVerifierAlgorithm: public SignatureAlgorithm,
	                    private RSAEncryptionAlgorithm
  verify(keytype& publickey, Plaintext& p, Signature& s)
            CipherText c;
	    encrypt(publickey, p, c);
	    return sigtype(c) == s;

Key Retrieval
I will assume for sake of simplicity that all keys have a KeyId associated
with them, perhaps just the name of the person who owns the key. A KeyID
is much like an ISBN number for a book. Whether you're in the Library
of Congress, B Dalton Bookstore, or searching an electronic catalog,
you can still find the book. What's common about the different mediums
where the book is located is that 1) it's still a book, and 2) it has an
ISBN. So, our model will be to generalize the places keys are found into
things called KeyDomain, and to generalize the ID of a key into something
called a KeyID. The function of a KeyDomain is to be able to retrieve/store
a Key based on a KeyID. A KeyDomain might be just a KeyRing on your
filesystem, or it may be a KeyServer. The key idea ( ;-) ) here is that
it doesn't matter.

Problems however start to arise when a single KeyDomain can store keys
for multiple algorithm types. For instance, a KeyServer storing keys
for both DSA and RSA. I don't know if this is a bad idea or not, but
since people will probably want to do it, it's probably a good idea to
support it.  One possibility is to have the KeyDomain return a generic
Key pointer, and use RTTI (run time type identification) to cast the
pointer to the appropriate type. I think this is a bad paradigm which
will lead to lots of programming errors and most C++ compilers don't
support RTTI yet. Therefore, my idea is to have a KeyDomain for each
cryptosystem which returns only keys of the type that cryptosystem
uses. The KeyDomain itself may be a KeyServer that connects to some
internet based server which stores lots of different key types, but
the idea is that the KeyServer filters out key requests which do not
conform to the type required. If you ask an RSAKeyServer for a KeyID
that corresponds to a DSA key, it will fail to find it even though the
physical server may actually store it.

The same comments go for a KeyRing which stores multiple types. A typical
object hierarchy may look like this:

                               (Returns Key)
                                /          \
                         RSAKeyDomain       DSAKeyDomain
                        (Returns RSAKey)    (Returns DSAKey)
                            /    \                /         \
                     RSAKeyRing  RSAKeyServer  DSAKeyRing    DSAKeyServer

(The *KeyRing and *KeyServer above also multiply inherit from KeyRing and
KeyServer represpectively. This is to encapsulate network and file i/o
abstractions) My first shot at the base class is

class KeyDomain
  typedef Key keytype;
  virtual keytype fetch(KeyId) = 0;
  virtual keytype put(KeyId) = 0;

class RSAKeyDomain
  typedef RSAKey keytype;
  virtual keytype fetch(KeyId) = 0;
  virtual keytype put(KeyId) = 0;

KeyRing and KeyServer are important because they will encapsulate
the i/o functions neccessary and store information (like the hostname
and port of a keyserver), but I can not define them right now without
more research into existing formats and protocols. Just picture
in your head, the KeyRing and KeyServer objects containing a nebulous
cloud which does the appropriate magic.

class KeyRing
  magic_io_function(magic_arg); // implements file system fetches

class RSAKeyRing : public RSAKeyDomain, public KeyRing
  // example fetch
  keytype fetch(KeyId) { return magic_io_function(magic_manipulate(KeyId)); }

Key Generation
  Key generation is dependent on two things. The cryptographic algorithm
being used and the random number generator used. The problem with the
examples given earlier is that the generation of encryption and decryption
keys can normally not be done separately. An encryption and decryption
key are intimately related by virtue of the fact that they are semantic
inverses. Therefore, what really should be generated is not individual
keys, but key pairs. Furthermore, since the encryptor usually generates
the keys, I'm placing the KeyPair generating function on the
EncryptionAlgorithm. An alternative architecture is to define another
object hierarchy called "KeyGenerator" and subclass "RSAKeyGenerator",
"DESKeyGenerator", etc. In the case of symmetric algorithms, such as a
DESKeyPair, the object would only store the secret key, but the
"get" functions on the object would return the same key whether you are
asking for the encryption key or the decryption key.

Imagine the following

BlumBlumShubGenerator bbsg(KeyStrokeBitSource());
DESAlgorithm des;
DESKeyPair dpair = des.generate_key(bbsg);

des.encrypt(dpair.encryptionkey(), plaintext, ciphertext);

DESKeyPair might look like this

class DESKeyPair : public KeyPair
  private_storage_type x;
 // both functions return the same key 'x'
  DESEncryptionKey encryptionkey() { return DESEncryptionKey(x); }
  DESDecryptionKey decryptionkey() { return DEDDecryptionKey(x); }

Division of Labor
  By defining a standard set of abstract interfaces, reuseable software
components are possible. This means that cypherpunks can write code
at the micro-level,  optimize it, implement the newest algorithms,
and distribute the result, which can then automagically be included
in software applications by simply relinking. (and with a Java
implementation, it really is automagic ;-)) Also, since only
those objects which are used are linked in, executable size can be
kept small. By using abstract base classes, and isolating implementation
from interface, recompiles can be kept to a minimum.

Low Level Hierarchy
  Since public key algorithms often need BlockCiphers to accomplish
encryption, several further abstractions are needed.

BlockCipherEncrypt (child of EncryptionAlgorithm)
     encrypt(key, plaintext, ciphertext)
BlockCipherDecrypt (child of DecryptionAlgorithm)
     decrypt(key, plaintext, ciphertext)

These are generic classes that specify an interface for symmetric
block ciphers.

example (refined from earlier):
class DESEncryptionAlgorithm: public BlockCipherEncrypt
	typedef DESKey keytype;
	encrypt(key, plaintext, ciphertext);
	keytype generate_key(RandomNumberGenerator);

A public key algorithm is a special case of an algorithm, so

class PublicKeyEncryptionAlgorithm : public EncryptionAlgorithm
   BlockCipherEncrypt& bc_enc;
    	PublicKeyEncryptionAlgorithm(BlockCipher& bc);
	encrypt(PublicKey, PlainText, CipherText);
        raw_encrypt(PublicKey, PlainText, Ciphertext); // used for signing
                                                       // digests

All public key algorithms are constructed with a BlockCipher so that
the encrypt function knows which cipher to use (unless of course
you are only using raw_encrypt(). Using normal encrypt() without
initializing with a BlockCipher should throw an exception). The
PublicKeyDecryptionAlgorithm class is defined similarly with

Given these classes, here's what how an RSA concrete class might look.

class RSAimplement; // implements low-level rsa operation
                    // after all, encryption and decryption are just
                    // modular exponentiation. Let's call this
                    // rsa_op(factor, exponent, modulus)

class RSAEncryptionAlgorithm : public PublicKeyEncryptionAlgorithm,
                               private RSAimplement
	RSAEncryptionAlgorithm(BlockCipherEncrypt& foo) : bc_enc(foo) {}
	encrypt(RSAPublicKey& r, PlainText& p, CipherText& c)
	   BlumBlumShubGenerator bbs(KeyBoardRandomBitSource());
	   BlockCipherKey session_key=bc_enc.generate_key(bbs);
	   bc_enc.encrypt(session_key, p, c);
	   rsa_op(session_key, r.exponent(), r.modulus());

Typical usage pattern might be as follows:

DESAlgorithm des;
RSAAlgorithm rsa(des);
KeyID kid("deepthroat");
RSAKeyServer rsaks("blacknet.net", PORT_BLACK);
PlainText p; // pictures of Senator Exon being spanked by his Mistress
CipherText c;
RSAKey pkey;
RFC822Encoding email;

Encrypt(rsa, pkey, p, c);

cout << email;

Auxillary class hierarchies
  Many of the above classes depend on polymorphic lower-level classes
to implement hash algorithms, key generation, random number generation,
number theory, primality testing, output encoding, and so on. The
following are just a few example hierarchies. (class interfaces will be
defined later)

These classes form the hash of a Plaintext and return MessageDigest
         |                   |                    |                  |
    MD5Algorithm      NISTSecureHash            Haval              Snefru

These classes return a random bitstring of a specified number of bits
         |                   |                    |                  |
 BlumBlumShubGenerator   HashGenerator        UnixRand      RadioactiveHardWare

These classes test an Integer for the specified typed of primality and
optionally suggest an increment value (to find the next such prime)
         |                   |                    |                  |
    FermatTest          MillerRabin            StrongPrime        BlumPrime

(e.g. a RandomPrime routine might take a RandomNumberGenerator and a
       ProbablePrimeTest as arguments. It uses the RNG to get a starting
       point, sieves a number, and if it passes the test, lets the
       PPT object test it for the right qualities. )

  Some of you may be asking "what's the point? Some libraries like Crypto++
can already compute all these things." The point of this exercise is to
devise an object hierarchy, interface, and dependency between these
algorithms so that they can interoperate without the user having to know
how they interoperate (or perform conversions himself between the different
formats each algorithm expects) Algorithms share common data formats and

  One crucial design feature of this hierarchy is that the graphs contain
no cycles. This alleviates the need to worry about virtual base classes
in multiple inheritance or object overlap.

  * overuse of subclassing might be slow
    answer: the performance impact of a virtual function call is minimal
            in comparison to performing a modular exponention

  * encapsulating raw data like digests into objects like MessageDigest
        when they are just going to be converted back to a raw bitstring
        is a waste of time and cpu
    answer: the cost is of setting a pointer to a databuffer and
            returning that pointer thru a class interface which can be
            inlined. the gain in abstraction which allows several different
            representations of digests, plus the type safety is worth the
            trade off. In the worst case, typedef MessageDigest to your
            favorite type.

  * C is more popular, we need a C library, not a C++ one
    answer: define a C interface library which hides the C++ and
            controls objects via takes. e.g.
            enum algorithms { RSA_ALGORITHM, DES_ALGORITHM, ... }
            encrypt(RSA_ALGORITHM, ....);
            the encrypt function would perform a case statement on
            these tags and allocate the appropriate C++ objects.
            We still gain abstraction and component behavior.

  * I think your class hierarchy sucks
    answer: then make some suggestions on how to improve it

  * object oriented programming is a fad, it doesn't gain you anything
    answer: it all depends on the design. Almost all new langages now a days
            are OO, and C++ is one of the fastest growing languages in the
            market. OO has proven advantages.

  * this is too much work
    answer: the bulk of the work is already done. Crypto++ has the
            actual implementation of most of these functions. All we
            need to do write the definitions of these classes with
            appropriate forwarding functions.

  * The NSA doesn't like "crypto hooks", this object oriented component
    system allows any algorithm to be "dropped in"
    answer: NSA who? Sorry, I don't recall.

  I purposely left this part out. It's the most complex piece of the design
but it is doable. The basic idea is to make all the objects "persistent"
in that they have a type id, and know how to translate themselves into
an internal stream based data format. Encoding objects would construct
streams out of keys, and algorithm outputs, and ciphertexts, and Integers,
etc. Later, StreamModules would take these streams and translate them into
the appropriate real world format (like PGP's CTB cyphertext block stuff)
Likewise, those same modules would constuct a protocol stream from
the real world format, and Decoding objects would turn those into objects.

Finally, a picture

     |	               |
 PKeyEncAlgorithm      BlockCipherEncAlgorithm
   | 	     |	             | 	         |    	
  RSAEncAlg  ElGamalEncAlg   DESEncAlg   IDEAEncAlg
      |            |    	 |            |
      |            |             |            |
      |            |    	 |            |
 RSAAlgorithm  ElGamalAlg    DESAlgorithm  IDEAAlgorithm
      |            |             |            |
      |            |    	 |            |
      |            |    	 |            |
  RSADecAlg  ElGamalDecAlg   DESDecAlg   IDEAEncAlg
     |       |               |           |
 PKeyDecAlgorithm      BlockCipherDecAlgorithm
     |                 |

-Ray Cromwell <[email protected]>

From owner-cypherpunks  Wed Aug  2 14:31:05 1995
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