The XChaCha20-Poly1305 construction

The XChaCha20-Poly1305 construction can safely encrypt a practically unlimited number of messages with the same key, without any practical limit to the size of a message (up to ~ 2^64 bytes).

As an alternative to counters, its large nonce size (192-bit) allows random nonces to be safely used.

For this reason, and if interoperability with other libraries is not a concern, this is the recommended AEAD construction.

Example (combined mode)

#define MESSAGE (const unsigned char *) "test"
#define MESSAGE_LEN 4
#define ADDITIONAL_DATA (const unsigned char *) "123456"
#define ADDITIONAL_DATA_LEN 6

unsigned char nonce[crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_NPUBBYTES];
unsigned char key[crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_KEYBYTES];
unsigned char ciphertext[MESSAGE_LEN + crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_ABYTES];
unsigned long long ciphertext_len;

crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_keygen(key);
randombytes_buf(nonce, sizeof nonce);

crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_encrypt(ciphertext, &ciphertext_len,
                                           MESSAGE, MESSAGE_LEN,
                                           ADDITIONAL_DATA, ADDITIONAL_DATA_LEN,
                                           NULL, nonce, key);

unsigned char decrypted[MESSAGE_LEN];
unsigned long long decrypted_len;
if (crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_decrypt(decrypted, &decrypted_len,
                                               NULL,
                                               ciphertext, ciphertext_len,
                                               ADDITIONAL_DATA,
                                               ADDITIONAL_DATA_LEN,
                                               nonce, key) != 0) {
    /* message forged! */
}

Combined mode

In combined mode, the authentication tag is directly appended to the encrypted message. This is usually what you want.

int crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_encrypt(unsigned char *c,
                                               unsigned long long *clen,
                                               const unsigned char *m,
                                               unsigned long long mlen,
                                               const unsigned char *ad,
                                               unsigned long long adlen,
                                               const unsigned char *nsec,
                                               const unsigned char *npub,
                                               const unsigned char *k);

The crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_encrypt() function encrypts a message m whose length is mlen bytes using a secret key k (crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_KEYBYTES bytes) and public nonce npub (crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_NPUBBYTES bytes).

The encrypted message, as well as a tag authenticating both the confidential message m and adlen bytes of non-confidential data ad, are put into c.

ad can be a NULL pointer with adlen equal to 0 if no additional data are required.

At most mlen + crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_ABYTES bytes are put into c, and the actual number of bytes is stored into clen unless clen is a NULL pointer.

nsec is not used by this particular construction and should always be NULL.

The public nonce npub should never ever be reused with the same key. Nonces can be generated using randombytes_buf() for every message. XChaCha20 uses 192-bit nonces, so the probability of a collision is negligible. Using a counter is also perfectly fine: nonces have to be unique for a given key, but they don't have to be unpredicable.

int crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_decrypt(unsigned char *m,
                                               unsigned long long *mlen,
                                               unsigned char *nsec,
                                               const unsigned char *c,
                                               unsigned long long clen,
                                               const unsigned char *ad,
                                               unsigned long long adlen,
                                               const unsigned char *npub,
                                               const unsigned char *k);

The crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_decrypt() function verifies that the ciphertext c (as produced by crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_encrypt()) includes a valid tag using a secret key k, a public nonce npub, and additional data ad (adlen bytes).

ad can be a NULL pointer with adlen equal to 0 if no additional data are required.

nsec is not used by this particular construction and should always be NULL.

The function returns -1 is the verification fails.

If the verification succeeds, the function returns 0, puts the decrypted message into m and stores its actual number of bytes into mlen if mlen is not a NULL pointer.

At most clen - crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_ABYTES bytes will be put into m.

Detached mode

Some applications may need to store the authentication tag and the encrypted message at different locations.

For this specific use case, "detached" variants of the functions above are available.

int crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_encrypt_detached(unsigned char *c,
                                                        unsigned char *mac,
                                                        unsigned long long *maclen_p,
                                                        const unsigned char *m,
                                                        unsigned long long mlen,
                                                        const unsigned char *ad,
                                                        unsigned long long adlen,
                                                        const unsigned char *nsec,
                                                        const unsigned char *npub,
                                                        const unsigned char *k);

The crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_encrypt_detached() function encrypts a message m with a key k and a nonce npub. It puts the resulting ciphertext, whose length is equal to the message, into c.

It also computes a tag that authenticates the ciphertext as well as optional, additional data ad of length adlen. This tag is put into mac, and its length is crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_ABYTES bytes.

nsec is not used by this particular construction and should always be NULL.

int crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_decrypt_detached(unsigned char *m,
                                                        unsigned char *nsec,
                                                        const unsigned char *c,
                                                        unsigned long long clen,
                                                        const unsigned char *mac,
                                                        const unsigned char *ad,
                                                        unsigned long long adlen,
                                                        const unsigned char *npub,
                                                        const unsigned char *k);

The crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_decrypt_detached() function verifies that the authentication tag mac is valid for the ciphertext c of length clen bytes, the key k , the nonce npub and optional, additional data ad of length adlen bytes.

If the tag is not valid, the function returns -1 and doesn't do any further processing.

If the tag is valid, the ciphertext is decrypted and the plaintext is put into m. The length is equal to the length of the ciphertext.

nsec is not used by this particular construction and should always be NULL.

void crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_keygen(unsigned char k[crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_KEYBYTES]);

This helper function introduced in libsodium 1.0.12 creates a random key k.

It is equivalent to calling randombytes_buf() but improves code clarity and can prevent misuse by ensuring that the provided key length is always be correct.

Constants

  • crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_KEYBYTES
  • crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_NPUBBYTES
  • crypto_aead_xchacha20poly1305_ietf_ABYTES

Algorithm details

  • Encryption: XChaCha20 stream cipher
  • Authentication: Poly1305 MAC

Notes

XChaCha20-Poly1305 was introduced in libsodium 1.0.12.

Unlike other variants directly using the ChaCha20 cipher, generating a random nonce for each message is acceptable with this XChaCha20-based construction, provided that the output of the PRNG is indistinguishable from random data.

The API conforms to the proposed API for the CAESAR competition.

A high-level crypto_aead_*() API is intentionally not defined until the CAESAR competition is over.

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