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TR18-031 | 15th February 2018 17:51

On the Communication Complexity of Key-Agreement Protocols



Key-agreement protocols whose security is proven in the random oracle model are an important alternative to the more common public-key based key-agreement protocols. In the random oracle model, the parties and the eavesdropper have access to a shared random function (an "oracle"), but they are limited in the number of queries they can make to it. Unfortunately, as shown by Impagliazzo and Rudich [STOC '89] and Barak and Mahmoody [Crypto '09], such protocols can only guarantee limited secrecy: the key of any $\ell$-query protocol can be revealed by an $O(\ell^2)$-query adversary. This quadratic gap between the query complexity of the honest parties and the eavesdropper matches the gap obtained by the Merkle's Puzzles protocol [CACM '78].

In this work we tackle a new aspect of key-agreement protocols in the random oracle model: their communication complexity. In Merkle's Puzzles, to obtain secrecy against an eavesdropper that makes roughly $\ell^2$ queries, the honest parties need to exchange $\Omega(\ell)$ bits. We show that for protocols with certain natural properties, ones that Merkle's Puzzle has, such high communication is unavoidable. Specifically, this is the case if the honest parties' queries are uniformly random, or alternatively if the protocol uses non-adaptive queries and has only two rounds. Our proof for the first setting uses a novel reduction from random-oracle protocols to the set-disjointness problem in two-party communication complexity, which is known to have high communication cost. For the second setting we prove the lower bound directly, using information-theoretic arguments.

Understanding the communication complexity of protocols whose security is proven in the random-oracle model is an important question in the study of practical protocols. Our results and proof techniques are a first step in this direction.

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