Ciphers Interview Preparation Guide
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Ciphers frequently Asked Questions by expert members with experience in Ciphers. So get preparation for the Ciphers job interview

23 Ciphers Questions and Answers:

1 :: What is a Block Cipher?

A block cipher transforms a fixed-length block of plaintext data into a block of ciphertext data of the same length. This transformation takes place under the action of a user-provided secret key. Decryption is performed by applying the reverse transformation to the ciphertext block using the same secret key. The fixed length is called the block size, and for many block ciphers, the block size is 64 bits.

2 :: What is an Iterated Block Cipher?

An iterated block cipher is one that encrypts a plaintext block by a process that has several rounds. In each round, the same transformation or round function is applied to the data using a subkey. The set of subkeys are usually derived from the user-provided secret key by a key schedule.

3 :: What is a Feistel Cipher?

Feistel ciphers are a special class of iterated block ciphers where the ciphertext is calculated from the plaintext by repeated application of the same transformation or round function. Feistel ciphers are also sometimes called DES-like ciphers.

In a Feistel cipher, the text being encrypted is split into two halves. The round function f is applied to one half using a subkey and the output of f is exclusive-ored with the other half. The two halves are then swapped. Each round follows the same pattern except for the last round where there is no swap.

4 :: What is Exhaustive Key Search?

Exhaustive key search, or brute-force search, is the basic technique of trying every possible key in turn until the correct key is identified. To identify the correct key it may be necessary to possess a plaintext and its corresponding ciphertext, or if the plaintext has some recognizable characteristic, ciphertext alone might suffice. Exhaustive key search can be mounted on any cipher and sometimes a weakness in the key schedule of the cipher can help improve the efficiency of an exhaustive key search attack.

Advances in technology and computing performance will always make exhaustive key search an increasingly practical attack against keys of a fixed length. When DES was designed, it was generally considered secure against exhaustive key search without a vast financial investment in hardware. Over the years, this line of attack will become increasingly attractive to a potential adversary.

5 :: What is Differential Cryptanalysis?

Differential cryptanalysis is a type of attack that can be mounted on iterative block ciphers. These techniques were first introduced by Murphy [Mur90] in an attack on FEAL-4, but they were later improved and perfected by Biham and Shamir who used them to attack DES. Differential cryptanalysis is basically a chosen plaintext attack and relies on an analysis of the evolution of the differences between two related plaintexts as they are encrypted under the same key. By careful analysis of the available data, probabilities can be assigned to each of the possible keys and eventually the most probable key is identified as the correct one.

6 :: What is Linear Cryptanalysis?

Linear cryptanalysis was first devised by Matsui and Yamagishi in an attack on FEAL. It was extended by Matsui to attack DES. Linear cryptanalysis is a known plaintext attack and uses a linear approximation to describe the behavior of the block cipher. Given sufficient pairs of plaintext and corresponding ciphertext, bits of information about the key can be obtained and increased amounts of data will usually give a higher probability of success.

7 :: What is a Weak Key for a Block Cipher?

Weak keys are secret keys with a certain value for which the block cipher in question will exhibit certain regularities in encryption or, in other cases, a poor level of encryption. For instance, with DES there are four keys for which encryption is exactly the same as decryption. This means that if one were to encrypt twice with one of these weak keys, then the original plaintext would be recovered. For IDEA there is a class of keys for which cryptanalysis is greatly facilitated and the key can be recovered. However, in both these cases, the number of weak keys is such a small fraction of all possible keys that the chance of picking one at random is exceptionally slight. In such cases, they pose no significant threat to the security of the block cipher when used for encryption.

8 :: What are Algebraic Attacks?

Algebraic attacks are a class of techniques which rely for their success on some block cipher exhibiting a high degree of mathematical structure.

For instance, it is conceivable that a block cipher might exhibit what is termed a group structure. If this were the case, then encrypting a plaintext under one key and then encrypting the result under another key would always be equivalent to single encryption under some other single key. If so, then the block cipher would be considerably weaker, and the use of multiple encryption would offer no additional security over single encryption. For most block ciphers, the question of whether they form a group is still open. For DES , however, it is known that the cipher is not a group.

9 :: How Can Data Compression be Used With Encryption?

Data compression removes redundant character strings in a file. This means that the compressed file has a more uniform distribution of characters. In addition to providing shorter plaintext and ciphertext, which reduces the amount of time needed to encrypt, decrypt and transmit a file, the reduced redundancy in the plaintext can potentially hinder certain cryptanalytic attacks.

By contrast, compressing a file after encryption is inefficient. The ciphertext produced by a good encryption algorithm should have an almost statistically uniform distribution of characters. As a consequence, a compression algorithm should be unable to find redundant patterns in such text and there will be little, if any, data compression. In fact, if a data compression algorithm is able to significantly compress encrypted text, then this indicates a high level of redundancy in the ciphertext which, in turn, is evidence of poor encryption.

10 :: At What Point Does an Attack Become Practical?

There is no easy answer to this question since it depends on many distinct factors. Not only must the work and computational resources required by the cryptanalyst be reasonable, but the amount and type of data required for the attack to be successful must also be taken into account.

One classification distinguishes among cryptanalytic attacks according to the data they require in the following way: chosen plaintext or chosen ciphertext, known plaintext, and ciphertext-only. (This classification is not particular to secret-key ciphers and can be applied to cryptanalytic attacks on any cryptographic function.)