Cryptanalysis of HALFLOOP Block Ciphers

Destroying HALFLOOP-24


  • Gregor Leander Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
  • Shahram Rasoolzadeh Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  • Lukas Stennes Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany



HF Radio, ALE, HALFLOOP, Differential, DS-MITM, TDM-TO


HALFLOOP is a family of tweakable block ciphers that are used for encrypting automatic link establishment (ALE) messages in high frequency radio, a technology commonly used by the military, other government agencies and industries which require high robustness in long-distance communications. Recently, it was shown in [DDLS22] that the smallest version of the cipher, HALFLOOP-24, can be attacked within a practical time and memory complexity. However, in the real-word ALE setting, it turns out that this attack require to wait more than 500 years to collect the necessary amount of plaintext-tweak-ciphertext pairs fulfilling the conditions of the attack.
In this paper, we present real-world practical attacks against HALFLOOP-24 which are based on a probability-one differential distinguisher. In our attacks, we significantly reduce the data complexity to three differential pairs in the chosen-plaintext (CPA) setting which is optimal in the sense that even a brute force attack needs at least six plaintext-tweak-ciphertext pairs to uniquely identify the correct key. Considering the same ALE setting as [DDLS22], this translates to a reduction from 541 years to 2 hours worth of intercepted traffic.
Besides, we provide the first, non generic, public cryptanalysis of HALFLOOP-48 and HALFLOOP-96. More precisely, we present Demirci-Selçuk meet-in-the-middle attacks against full-round HALFLOOP-48 and round-reduced HALFLOOP-96 to recover the complete master key in a CPA setting. However, unlike the attacks on HALFLOOP-24, our attacks on the larger versions are only theoretical. Moreover for HALFLOOP-96 the known generic time-memory trade-off attack, based on a flawed tweak handling, remains the strongest attack vector.
In conclusion, we iterate what was already stated in [DDLS22]: HALFLOOP does not provide adequate protection and should not be used.




How to Cite

Leander, G., Rasoolzadeh, S., & Stennes, L. (2023). Cryptanalysis of HALFLOOP Block Ciphers: Destroying HALFLOOP-24. IACR Transactions on Symmetric Cryptology, 2023(4), 58–82.