s2n-bignum: Secure Cryptographic Arithmetic


This is a collection of bignum arithmetic routines designed for cryptographic applications. All routines are written in pure machine code, designed to be callable from C and other high-level languages, with separate but API-compatible versions of each function for 64-bit x86 (x86_64) and ARM (aarch64). Each function is written in a constant-time style to avoid timing side-channels, and is accompanied by a machine-checked formal proof that its mathematical result is correct, based on a formal model of the underlying machine.


Assuming a suitable operating system (e.g. Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows with Cygwin) and a few basic build tools you should be able to download the repo and build with just a few basic commands. On an x86 machine:

git clone https://github.com/awslabs/s2n-bignum
cd ./s2n-bignum
(cd ./x86; make)

while on an ARM machine (aarch64, arm64) just replace "x86" with "arm":

git clone https://github.com/awslabs/s2n-bignum
cd ./s2n-bignum
(cd ./arm; make)

This results in a library of bignum mathematical functions that can be called from C or other languages. To run basic unit tests on the library just built:

(cd ./tests; make go)

To run the benchmarking code to get performance numbers for your platform (this usually takes several minutes):

(cd ./benchmarks; make go)

The code is all written in assembler, with each individual mathematical function consisting of a .S file that can be assembled by directly invoking the GNU C compiler gcc or by explicitly combining the C preprocessor and an assembler or other C or C++ compiler. If using your own build command, consult the existing Makefiles for guidance since there are some subtle variations even among assemblers (e.g. some C compilers won't handle multiple instructions per line when taking in assembler files).

Using the library

The build process above results in a library that can be used to provide all the functionality together (e.g. x86/libs2bignum.a for an x86 machine), as well as individual object files, one per function, that can be used for more fine-grained linkage (e.g. x86/generic/bignum_add.o for the addition function on x86). The functions all use standard Application Binary Interfaces to connect to C and other high-level languages; the ABI determines, for example, which registers or stack frames hold the arguments to a function when called. The x86+Windows combination uses a non-standard ABI, which can explicitly be forced using the additional option -DWINDOWS_ABI=1 when building. In either case the C-level prototypes for the functions are collected in a header file that can be included in C programs to specify the interfaces. A quick browse through this also gives an idea of what functions the library provides.


You can include this in a C program as usual, after first including the standard header defining the types uint64_t etc. that are basic for s2n-bignum:

#include <inttypes.h>
#include "s2n-bignum.h"

Here is a small complete C program myprogram.c calling the library, computing the modular inverse of 12345 modulo the wordsize using the word_negmodinv function provided by the library, then printing out confirmation that it works:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <inttypes.h>
#include "s2n-bignum.h"

int main(void)
  uint64_t x = 12345;
  uint64_t y = -word_negmodinv(x);
  printf("%ld * %ld = %ld (mod 2^64)\n",x,y,x*y);

Assuming you are on an x86 machine in a directory above the s2n-bignum subdirectory (otherwise change the . below into an appropriate path and/or change x86 to arm), you can compile this as follows, specifying the paths to the library itself and the headers:

gcc -o myprogram myprogram.c -I./s2n-bignum/include/ -L./s2n-bignum/x86/ -ls2nbignum

and then run it as usual to see the output:

$ ./myprogram
12345 * 5288216061308878345 = 1 (mod 2^64)

Architectural and microarchitectural considerations

The overall C-level interface supported by the library is the same regardless of architecture, ARM or x86. In each case, however, there are some architectural and microarchitectural considerations to be aware of:

On ARM, each function will work correctly on any existing microarchitecture. However, some functions have two variants with significant performance differences according to platform. The versions with _alt suffixes are designed to maximize performance on microarchitectures with higher multiplier throughput (typically more recent ones, like the Apple M1), while the non-alt variants are better suited to 'traditional' ARM microarchitectures with lower multiplier throughput (specifically, limited pipelining of the UMULH instruction to get the high part of a 64x64-bit product).

On x86, all generic bignum functions (in the x86/generic subdirectory) will work correctly on any existing microarchitecture. Some of the more highly optimized functions for specific elliptic curves etc. require the BMI and ADX instruction set extensions (specifically the MULX, ADCX and ADOX instructions). In such cases, the _alt suffix forms are provided as a backup that will work for older platforms. In all cases where there is such an alt form provided, the non-alt form is likely to be faster where those instructions are supported, as on most recent x86-64 chips.

If you are unsure which version of a function to use on your platform, a simple test is to run the benchmarking code (see above) and examine the results. For example, this is a contemporary ARM platform where the alt form performs better:

curve25519_x25519               : 26661.8 ns each (var  0.8%, corr  0.03) =      37507 ops/sec
curve25519_x25519_alt           : 19297.7 ns each (var  0.4%, corr -0.03) =      51820 ops/sec

and this is a typical x86 chip where the non-alt form is faster:

curve25519_x25519               : 30103.0 ns each (var  0.0%, corr -0.14) =      33219 ops/sec
curve25519_x25519_alt           : 38097.0 ns each (var  0.0%, corr -0.11) =      26249 ops/sec

while this is a very old x86 machine where the required instructions for the non-alt form are not supported:

curve25519_x25519               :             *** NOT APPLICABLE  ***
curve25519_x25519_alt           : 51977.2 ns each (var  1.4%, corr  0.01) =      19239 ops/sec

Constant-time bignums

The s2n-bignum library provides a simple and flexible API for manipulating bignums, which are integers of arbitrary size (operations focus on nonnegative integers, but use 2s complement where appropriate for negation). The integers are represented as little-endian arrays of unsigned 64-bit "digits", where the digits can be accessed via the standard uint64_t type in C. They can be explicitly read and written as normal C arrays as well as via the s2n-bignum API. For example, here is how one might set up the constant 2255-19 as a 4-digit bignum (note the little-endian digit representation, independent of the byte order of the underlying machine):

uint64_t p_25519[4] =

The arrays can be arbitrarily large or small and the sizes can be runtime parameters, with no overall restriction to specific sizes like 4 in the example above. However, in contrast to many standard bignum interfaces like that supported by GMP, the operations do not dynamically adjust the sizes, but require them to be explicitly specified by the user when calling each function. The reason for this is to allow flexibility and genericity while also enforcing "constant-time" behavior for security from timing side-channels in cryptographic applications.

By "constant-time" we mean roughly that a given bignum operation takes a time that is independent of the actual numbers involved, depending only on their nominal sizes. Each s2n-bignum operation takes and returns bignums of specified nominal sizes, and manipulates them on the basis of the nominal sizes only, independent of their actual numeric values (even if those are zero). If a result does not fit in the size provided, it is systematically truncated modulo that size. s2n-bignum functions never strip away leading zeros to make numbers shorter, nor do they allocate extra space to make them longer; indeed, they perform no memory allocation or other OS calls at all. For instance, the basic multiplication function has the following C prototype:

void bignum_mul(uint64_t p,uint64_t *z, uint64_t m,uint64_t *x, uint64_t n,uint64_t *y);

This means that x points to an m-digit bignum (little-endian, with 64-bit words as the digits), y points to an n-digit bignum, and the function writes their product to the p-word buffer pointed to by z, truncating it modulo 264p if it doesn't fit. In this setting with nominal sizes for all numbers, the "constant-time" characteristic means that the actual sequence of machine instructions executed, including the specific addresses and sequencing of memory loads and stores, is independent of the numbers themselves, depending only on their nominal sizes (m, n and p for the above example).

Since the s2n-bignum interface is just using pointers to pre-existing arrays, any allocation of memory is the caller's responsibility. Some s2n-bignum functions use space on the stack for intermediate computations (or just to save and restore registers), but only in cases where that size is bounded and moderate. For the few generic-size functions that need similarly generic (and hence unbounded a priori) space for intermediate storage, it needs to be provided by the caller via an additional argument. For example, the final argument to the bignum_modinv (modular inverse) function is to a temporary buffer of a size depending on the generic size parameter k (specifically, according to the API it should be >= 3 * k):

void bignum_modinv (uint64_t k, uint64_t *z, uint64_t *a, uint64_t *b, uint64_t *t);

In order to keep the generic API more convenient, minimizing the need for such additional parameters, functions sometimes read from and write to the provided buffers in interleaved fashion in a way that assumes inputs and outputs do not overlap. Aliasing of input and output buffers is however usually allowed in fixed-size functions and (provided they are exactly the same, not overlapped in more intricate fashion) "linear" generic-sized functions; consult the detailed API reference for more details.

What's in the library?

The s2n-bignum library supports basic bignum arithmetic using the API specified above, as well as a host of related operations, the aim being to provide convenient and reliable building-blocks for higher-level cryptographic functionality. The range of operations provided covers:

Elementary operations on 64-bit words, mainly to provide reference implementations that are constant-time, e.g. word_max (maximum), word_clz (counting leading zeros)

Basic generic-size bignum arithmetic functionality like bignum_add (addition), bignum_sub (subtraction), bignum_mul (multiplication), bignum_eq (equality comparison).

Generic-size constant-time data manipulation like bignum_digit (selecting a digit, like array indexing but without any difference in memory access pattern from element number) and bignum_mux (multiplexing or if-then-else, analogous to C b ? x : y.

Generic-size Montgomery operations like bignum_montmul (Montgomery multiplication), bignum_montredc (Montgomery reduction) and bignum_montifier (computes constant for mapping into Montgomery form) for performing modular arithmetic in Montgomery form for any odd modulus.

Optimized multiplication and squaring operations for specific sizes, e.g. bignum_mul_4_8 (multiply two 4-digit numbers with 8-digit result) and bignum_sqr_16_32 (square a 16-digit number with 32-digit result).

Optimized modular and/or Montgomery arithmetic operations for common primes that are field characteristics for specific elliptic curves, e.g. bignum_montmul_p521 (Montgomery multiplication modulo 2521-1) for NIST P-521, bignum_sqr_p25519 (modular squaring modulo 2255-19 for curve25519).

Full top-level point operations for supported elliptic curves, e.g. p256_jadd (point addition on NIST P-256 curve), secp256k1_jdouble (point doubling for secp256k1). These usually assume a particular coordinate representation, Jacobian in these cases (hence the "j").

The elliptic curves with some special support are the following; the degree of support varies from just modular and/or Montgomery arithmetic operations for the field characteristic modulus, up to basic point operations, and even in some cases full scalar multiplication (e.g. curve25519_x25519).

  • curve25519/edwards25519
  • NIST P-256
  • NIST P-384
  • NIST P-521
  • secp256k1

Testing and formal verification

The basic testing setup as mentioned above subjects each function to a number of unit tests, mainly using pseudo-random inputs and comparing against conceptually simpler (but neither efficient nor constant-time) C references, also doing some checking of pre-tabulated "known correct" results. This process

(cd ./tests; make go)

should be enough to expose any basic problems, typically failure to assemble and link the code correctly. However, in pursuit of the highest standards of correctness, that basic testing is complemented by the far more rigorous and sophisticated process of formal verification.

The formal verification process performs a machine-checked proof that the actual object file generated by the build process satisfies a high-level mathematical specification for all inputs (not just for specific test cases), assuming a formal model of how each processor (ARM or x86) executes code. These models make some simplifications and idealizations but model pretty faithfully the way in which specific machine instructions modify registers, flags and memory.

To perform the formal proof for a particular function, just use the Makefile within either the arm or x86 directories to generate a target of the form function_name.correct for a corresponding object file function_name.o. Alternatively, the entire collection of functions can all be formally proved via the proofs pseudo-target. This is likely to be very time-consuming and hence better executed with some parallelism, e.g.

nohup make -j 16 proofs &

The proof process is controlled by a corresponding "proof script" in the proofs subdirectory with corresponding name proofs/function_name.ml The technical details of how the machine is modeled and how the proof is performed are too involved to enter into in detail in this brief summary, but by examining the proof script file you can find detailed specifications for each function, which might be considered the most rigorous possible form of API documentation.

For example the file arm/proofs/bignum_mul_p25519.ml starts with a lengthy sequence of 32-bit words that specify the machine code being verified. This is not just accepted a priori as the canonical machine code, but actually checked against the object file to make sure it is indeed what is generated by the build process. The later proof then shows that executing this on the idealized machine model guarantees some toplevel mathematical properties. In this case, the specification that is proved looks like this:

nonoverlapping (word pc,0x288) (z,8 * 4)
 ==> ensures arm
      (\s. aligned_bytes_loaded s (word pc) bignum_mul_p25519_mc /\
           read PC s = word pc /\
           read X30 s = returnaddress /\
           C_ARGUMENTS [z; x; y] s /\
           bignum_from_memory(x,4) s = m /\
           bignum_from_memory(y,4) s = n)
      (\s. read PC s = returnaddress /\
           bignum_from_memory(z,4) s = (m * n) MOD p_25519)
      (MAYCHANGE [PC; X1; X2; X3; X4; X5; X6; X7; X8; X9;
                  X10; X11; X12; X13; X14; X15; X16; X17] ,,
       MAYCHANGE [memory :> bytes(z,8 * 4)] ,,

A detailed understanding of these formal specifications would take careful study of the underlying logical definitions, but in somewhat general impressionistic terms we can turn it into English as follows:

We assume the output buffer z doesn't overlap the code being executed but otherwise make no aliasing assumptions for inputs versus outputs.

ASSUMING that we start in a state where

the machine code specified at the start is loaded (4-byte aligned as per ARM restrictions) and the program counter register PC points to the start of it

the return address to the caller is in register X30 as per ABI

the pointers z, x and y are set up in registers according to the standard ABI rules

the pointers x and y point at 4-digits bignums with respective values m and n

THEN we will reach another state where

The program counter PC has jumped to the return address

The buffer pointed to by z contains the mathematical answer (x * y) mod p_25519, where p_25519 is an abbreviation for 2255-19.

BETWEEN initial and final states, the only components of the machine that could have been modified are:

Registers including the program counter (of course) and general purpose registers X1, ..., X17 (freely modifiable by a subroutine according to the ABI)

The specified output buffer at address z of size 4 x 8-byte words.

The machine flags (also freely modifiable according to the ABI)

Benchmarking and "constant time"

The benchmarking setup included in the repository can be invoked, as mentioned above, by the following, starting in the s2n-bignum root directory and after building the library:

(cd ./benchmarks; make go)

After some explanatory information which summarizes the explanations below, this shows a list of the execution time behavior of each function on the current platform, one per line in alphabetical order; generic-size functions like bignum_add are exercised on one or more specific sizes as shown in parentheses after the function name.

bignum_add (4x4->4)             :     3.4 ns each (var  1.6%, corr  0.07) =  296073608 ops/sec
bignum_add (6x6->6)             :     4.3 ns each (var  1.3%, corr  0.02) =  233426704 ops/sec
bignum_add (32x32->32)          :    18.4 ns each (var  0.8%, corr -0.01) =   54430655 ops/sec
bignum_add_p25519               :     2.2 ns each (var  2.9%, corr -0.01) =  462501779 ops/sec
bignum_add_p256                 :     2.9 ns each (var  1.6%, corr -0.01) =  342429670 ops/sec
bignum_add_p256k1               :     2.6 ns each (var  1.9%, corr -0.04) =  387458274 ops/sec
bignum_add_p384                 :     4.4 ns each (var  1.1%, corr -0.03) =  226923614 ops/sec
bignum_add_p521                 :     4.3 ns each (var  1.4%, corr  0.02) =  232991612 ops/sec
bignum_amontifier (32)          :  2993.4 ns each (var  0.1%, corr -0.08) =     334073 ops/sec
bignum_amontmul (32)            :  2410.8 ns each (var  0.0%, corr -0.04) =     414797 ops/sec
bignum_amontredc (32/16 -> 16)  :   317.1 ns each (var  0.1%, corr -0.01) =    3153693 ops/sec
bignum_amontsqr (32 -> 32)      :  2410.2 ns each (var  0.0%, corr  0.05) =     414901 ops/sec
word_max                        :     0.8 ns each (var  4.2%, corr -0.03) = 1234333460 ops/sec
word_min                        :     0.8 ns each (var  3.4%, corr  0.05) = 1237623762 ops/sec
word_negmodinv                  :     2.7 ns each (var  2.0%, corr -0.11) =  366568915 ops/sec
word_recip                      :     7.4 ns each (var  0.9%, corr -0.06) =  134380815 ops/sec

The first number reported is the average runtime, in nanoseconds (1 ns = 10-9 seconds, or one billionth of a second), over a large number of calls, and the last one is the reciprocal of this to give the average number of operations per second. Hence "smaller is better" for the first number while "bigger is better" for the final one.

The "var" and "corr" numbers in parentheses attempt to give some empirical results on the variation in runtime with respect to the data being manipulated. Since this is intended to be invariant, one wishes these numbers to be small, though there is inevitably some variation because of miscellaneous platform factors. For each "bit density" between 0 and 64, pseudo-random inputs are generated with that bit density; the bit density is essentially the average number of 1 bits in each 64-bit word of these pseudo-random numbers (so bit density 0 means all zeros, bit density 64 means all 1s). The function is separately timed over each of these. The end results give the coefficient of variation "var" (standard deviation divided by mean) and correlation coefficient "corr" of runtime with bit density.

As explained above, the "constant time" design principle is that the sequence of machine instructions executed, including the access pattern of memory reads and writes, is independent of the actual numeric data being manipulated, once any parametric sizes are fixed. Any failures in practice to actually take exactly the same time on all data (beyond some expected experimental errors and flaws in the timing framework) could only arise if either:

The above "constant time" design discipline is not followed at all points as intended. We consider this very unlikely, but in contrast to functional correctness it is not actually rigorously machine-checked at present. We anticipate in the future subjecting the code to automated dataflow analysis as an additional validation test.

Some individual machine instructions that are used take a time that depends on their data. We have specifically avoided certain machine instructions known to be problematic in this respect (e.g. division instructions), but we have no absolute guarantees from the hardware makers that there are no such variations in the instructions we use, except on ARM platforms where the "DIT" = "data-independent timing" bit is set.

Download Details:

Author: awslabs

Official Github: https://github.com/awslabs/s2n-bignum 

License: Apache-2.0

#data #data-analysis #data-science 

s2n-bignum: Secure Cryptographic Arithmetic
1.05 GEEK