Bleichenbacher’s Attack Strikes Again: Breaking PKCS#1 v1.5 in XML Encryption

Tibor Jager, Sebastian Schinzel, Juraj Somorovsky

In Proceedings of the 17th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security (ESORICS), 2012, Full Version


We describe several attacks against the PKCS#1 v1.5 key transport mechanism of XML Encryption. Our attacks allow to recover the secret key used to encrypt transmitted payload data within a few minutes or several hours, depending on the considered scenario.

The attacks exploit differences in error messages and in the timing behavior of XML frameworks. We show how to attack seemingly invulnerable implementations, by exploiting additional properties of the XML Encryption standard that lead to new side-channels. An interesting novelty of one of our attacks is that it combines a weakness of a public-key scheme (transporting an ephemeral session key) with a different weakness of a symmetric encryption scheme (which transports the payload data, encrypted with the session key).

Recently the XML Encryption standard was updated, in response to an attack presented at CCS 2011. The attacks described in this paper work even against the updated version of XML Encryption. Our work shows once more that legacy cryptosystems have to be used with extreme care, and should be avoided wherever possible, since they may lead to practical attacks.


Tags: Bleichenbacher's attack, Chosen-Ciphertext attak, XML Encryption