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The Skein Hash Function Family

The Skein Hash Function Family

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Published by Chris Nash
Skein is a new family of cryptographic hash functions. Its design combines speed, security, simplicity, and a great deal of flexibility in a modular package that is easy to analyze.
Skein is a new family of cryptographic hash functions. Its design combines speed, security, simplicity, and a great deal of flexibility in a modular package that is easy to analyze.

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Published by: Chris Nash on Oct 29, 2008
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The Skein Hash Function Family
Version 1.0 — 29 Oct 2008
Niels Ferguson
Microsoft Corp.,
niels@microsoft.com
Stefan Lucks
Bauhaus-Universit¨at Weimar,
stefan.lucks@uni-weimar.de
Bruce Schneier
BT Group plc,
schneier@schneier.com
Doug Whiting
Hifn, Inc.
dwhiting@hifn.com
Mihir Bellare
University of California San Diego,
mihir@cs.ucsd.edu
Tadayoshi Kohno
University of Washington,
yoshi@cs.washington.edu
Jon Callas
PGP Corp.,
jon@pgp.com
Jesse Walker
Intel Corp.,
jesse.walker@intel.com
 
Executive Summary
Skein is a new family of cryptographic hash functions. Its design combines speed, security, simplic-ity, and a great deal of flexibility in a modular package that is easy to analyze.Skein is fast. Skein-512—our primary proposal—hashes data at 6.1 clock cycles per byte on a 64-bitCPU. This means that on a 3.1 GHz x64 Core 2 Duo CPU, Skein hashes data at 500 MBytes/secondper core—almost twice as fast as SHA-512 and three times faster than SHA-256. An optional hash-tree mode speeds up parallelizable implementations even more. Skein is fast for short messages,too; Skein-512 hashes short messages in about 1000 clock cycles.Skein is secure. Its conservative design is based on the Threefish block cipher. Our current bestattack on Threefish-512 is on 25 of 72 rounds, for a safety factor of 2.9. For comparison, at asimilar stage in the standardization process, the AES encryption algorithm had an attack on 6 of 10 rounds, for a safety factor of only 1.7. Additionally, Skein has a number of provably secureproperties, greatly increasing confidence in the algorithm.Skein is simple. Using only three primitive operations, the Skein compression function can beeasily understood and remembered. The rest of the algorithm is a straightforward iteration of thisfunction.Skein is flexible. Skein is defined for three different internal state sizes—256 bits, 512 bits, and 1024bits—and any output size. This allows Skein to be a drop-in replacement for the entire SHA familyof hash functions. A completely optional and extendable argument system makes Skein an efficienttool to use for a very large number of functions: a PRNG, a stream cipher, a key derivation function,authentication without the overhead of HMAC, and a personalization capability. All these featurescan be implemented with very low overhead. Together with the Threefish large-block cipher atSkein core, this design provides a full set of symmetric cryptographic primitives suitable for mostmodern applications.Skein is efficient on a variety of platforms, both hardware and software. Skein-512 can be im-plemented in about 200 bytes of state. Small devices, such as 8-bit smart cards, can implementSkein-256 using about 100 bytes of memory. Larger devices can implement the larger versions of Skein to achieve faster speeds.Skein was designed by a team of highly experienced cryptographic experts from academia and in-dustry, with expertise in cryptography, security analysis, software, chip design, and implementationof real-world cryptographic systems. This breadth of knowledge allowed them to create a balanceddesign that works well in all environments.i

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