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International Journal of Computer Engineering and Information Technology

VOL. 11, NO. 6, June 2019, 119–129

Available online at: www.ijceit.org

E-ISSN 2412-8856 (Online)

A Survey Paper of Lightweight Block Ciphers Based on Their Different

Design Architectures and Performance Metrics

Sohel Rana1, Md. Anwar Hussen Wadud2, Ali Azgar3 and Dr. Mohammod Abul Kashem4

1, 2, 3 Lecturer, Department of CSE, Bangladesh University of Business & Technology (BUBT), Mirpur-2, Dhaka-1216,

Bangladesh

4 Professor, Department of CSE, Dhaka University of Engineering & Technology (DUET), Gazipur, Dhaka-1707,

Bangladesh

1sohelresearch@gmail.com, 2mahwadud@gmail.com, 3azgor07@gmail.com, 4drkashemll@duet.ac.bd

ABSTRACT

Now-a-days, Security in communication over Internet has turned

out to be complex as technology becomes faster and more

efficient rapidly especially for resources limited devices like

embedded devices, wireless sensors, RFID (Radio Frequency

Identification) tags, Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Lightweight cryptographic algorithms provide security for these

devices to protect data from intruders. A thorough understanding

of lightweight cryptography will help people develop better

ways to protect valuable information as technology develops

faster. But as time passes, the cryptanalyst (the science of

discovering weaknesses in cryptosystems and breaking them if

possible) breaks the ciphers which were known as unbreakable.

This paper represents a survey of recent lightweight block cipher

algorithms with performance analysis for different evaluation

metrics like RAM size, Execution Cycles as well as provides

modern advances in the said field and finding scopes for future

research.

Keywords: Lightweight, Small-Computing-Devices, IoT,

Block-cipher, Performance-Metrics, Feistel, SPN,

FELICS.

1. INTRODUCTION

Lightweight cryptography [1] is a sub-category in the

field of cryptography that intends to provide security

solutions for resource-constrained devices. Cryptography

means “secret writing”. In computer communication we

want to encrypt our information so that no unwanted

entity but the expected one can decipher the information.

At the core of lightweight cryptography there is a trade-

off between security and light-weightiness: that is how we

can achieve a good level of security in small computing

devices? Recently, academic communities have been

doing a significant amount of work related to lightweight

cryptography; to implement conventional cryptography

standards efficiently, and to design and analyze new

lightweight algorithms and protocols [1].

The widespread utilization of small computing devices

such as sensors nodes, Radio-Frequency Identification

(RFID) tags, industrial controllers and smart cards

indicates there have been massive changes in our lives.

Also, technology has made our life easier and convenient

with innovations. Using Internet we are connecting our

devices. Smart locks are protecting our houses. Smart

phones, smart TVs, video game consoles, personal

computers, laptops, tablets even the refrigerator and air

conditioners have gained the capability to communicate

over Internet. This trend is expected to grow even

exponentially and by the year 2020 it is estimated that,

there will be over 50 billion objects connected to the

Internet. According to that estimation each person on the

earth shall have 6.6 objects online. Millions of sensors

will be all around us collecting information from physical

phenomena and will upload it to the Internet. Some

suggestion has been made that application of IoT is yet in

the early stage but is beginning to ubiquitous rapidly. IoT

can be used in building automation system. Various

industries are becoming more and more interested in

integration of IoT.

IoT has brought in improvement opportunities in health-

care. Health-care solutions through IoT can decrease

costs, improve the outcome of treatment. Doctors can

make informed judgment and monitor patient real time

before things get of hand. It also enhances patient

experience when they see improved accuracy in

diagnosis, timely intervention by the physicians.

Resource constrained devices contribute in many areas.

These make mining production safer and productive.

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S. Rana et. al

More accurate forecasting in weather and disaster will be

possible. They are transforming transportation systems

and automobile services. Transportation companies will

be able to track and monitor their vehicles from origin to

destination. If those are equipped with sensors and RFID

tags [8]. Logistics industries and courier services are

heavily dependent on goods tracking devices.

With so many applications looking forward to adapt the

technology with the purposes to help in economy growth,

transportation, healthcare facility and a better life style for

the general masses, adequate security to their data is vital

to encourage the adaptation process. New security and

privacy considerations arise as we shift from desktop

computer to small computing devices like IoT, RFID tags

etc. It is challenging to implement heavyweight

cryptographic standards to small devices [1], [7]. Many

conventional cryptographic algorithms, was optimized for

desktop and server environments. Optimization in terms

of security, performance and resource requirements

makes those algorithms difficult or impossible to

implement in resource-constrained devices. Even if they

can be implemented, they thwart the performance on the

small devices. If we want the most strong and secure

system we must equip our system with powerful

resources.

But conventional cryptographic algorithms like RSA

inherently perform well in these powerful devices;

therefore lightweight algorithms are not necessary for

them. Embedded systems, RFID devices and sensors

networks have very limited processing capabilities and

memory. Hence, Lightweight cryptography like DES [2],

PRESENT [12] etc. is principally motivated for those.

Lightweight block ciphers use different design

architectures to ensure enough security in Resource

limited devices while keeping execution cycles as

minimum as possible.

Most of the ciphers are designed by using Feistel

Architecture like SIMON [6], SIT [7], TEA [17],

Blowfish [11], RC5 [20], etc. or by SPN (Substitution-

Permutation Network) [16] like AES [3][4], PRESENT

[12], KLAIN [9] etc. or by using both Architecture like

DES [2], SIMON [6] to provide enough Shannon’s

confusion and diffusion properties in cipher text. On the

other hand, Authors of some ciphers used ARX (Addition

Rotation and XOR) architecture like SPECK [6]. Each of

these architectures have some Special features like

Invertible (Encryption and Decryption are almost same),

Round function, Security and less energy consumption

etc.

Entire security of the ciphers depends on secret keys that

are used in every round in the block ciphers. For that

reason key scheduling in the block ciphers is performed in

a secure way. In SIT algorithm [7], Authors used SP

Network and 4x4 matrices to generate secret round keys

in order to keep safe cipher text from unauthorized access.

1.1 Motivation

Cryptography itself is a challenging and interesting

subject to study and especially to research on. We cannot

think of secure data communication without

cryptography. In history people won wars using

cryptography as a weapon. It involves mathematics,

algorithm, programming, understanding in data

communication, etc. With the widespread use of small

low powered devices, lightweight cryptography will play

a vital role in future. A survey by HP states that more than

70% of resource-constrained devices are vulnerable [5]. It

is necessary to make a balance between the security and

performance.

2. DIFFERENT ARCHITECTURES FOR

BLOCK CIPHERS

Different structures [14] for various ciphers have been

used to provide the efficient security for thousands of

years.

2.1 Feistel Architecture

It is a symmetric structure to create sufficient confusion

and diffusion of information for the purpose of preventing

cipher text from the attacks. It was first designed by a

cryptographer named Horst Feistel who did research

while working for IBM [1]. The encryption and

decryption method of this architecture are similar. Feistel

Network [9] is a repetitive architecture. Each loop is

called a round. Steps that cover a loop in Feistel Network

are as below:

Input is divided equally into two parts (Left part

and Right part).

Right part remains unchanged and also is

transformed by the round function f which

receives a sub-key.

Left part is formed by combining with the

transformed input from right part using XOR

operation.

Right part and Left part are switched to obtain

input for next round

Repeat again for next round.

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S. Rana et. al

Fig. 1. Feistel Network

Feistel architecture is invertible [1] i.e., Encryption

process and Decryption process are almost the same just

reverse in order. This feature reduces the code size of

block ciphers. Also, the F-function of this architecture is

open for authors to design. It can be S-Box or P-Box or

others which must be invertible also.

2.2 Substitution-Permutation Network (SPN)

SP network [1] stands for substitution and permutation

network that are responsible for confusion and diffusion

properties to secure the cipher text. In the SP network,

substitution shows the non-linear transformation property

and is called S boxes. Permutation provides the linear

transformation and is called P boxes. In general, the SP

network [1], [16] is used as a round function for a block

cipher to achieve high security.

Let us consider an input data for S-Box is 110110. So,

the corresponding output after transformed by the S-Box

can be calculated as follows. The middle 4 bits of input

data (110110) indicates the corresponding column of S-

Box and Outer two bits (10) are for identifying the

corresponding row of S-Box. Therefore, the input data

corresponds to the column no of 1011 i.e., B and 10 i.e.,

3rd row of S-Box. Hence, the output of S-Box is 9 i.e.,

1001.

*

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

A

B

C

D

E

F

0

F

E

D

C

B

A

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

1

3

F

C

0

9

E

A

D

B

4

6

8

2

7

5

1

2

7

8

A

B

0

1

F

3

E

C

4

9

6

5

D

2

3

2

D

9

6

5

4

C

E

3

F

1

0

B

A

8

7

Fig. 2. Substitution Box.

On the other hand, P-Box just generates a different

combination from the given input pattern of bits. For

example, as in figure below (010000111000000) output

for a binary input (1000011000010000) can be a different

combination of given binary bits.

Fig. 3. Permutation Box.

Fig. 4. Substitution-Permutation Network.

2.3 Hybrid Architecture

To avail the advantage of both SPN and Feistel

architectures, some authors proposed the algorithms

which are designed by using both architectures like DES

(Data Encryption Standard) [2], Blowfish [11] and SIT

(Secure Internet-Of-Things)[7] etc.

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S. Rana et. al

1. Popular lightweight block ciphers

This section illustrates the basic of some popular and

recently proposed lightweight cryptographic algorithms.

Lucifer/ DES (Data Encryption Standard)

DES [2] is seemed to be the first cryptographic well-

known symmetric-key block cipher which was developed

at IBM in 1970 based on Feistel architecture.

Fig. 5. One round of DES algorithm

Also, the F-function of DES algorithm consists of both S-

Box(Substitution) and P-Box(Permutation). Authors of

DES propose 64 bits block size, 56 bits of secret key size

and 16 repeated rounds. Although Security of primary

DES can easily be broken by Brute Force attack, some

later version of DES like Triple-DES, G-DES and DES-X

[9] etc. had become popular for providing sufficient

security for small computing devices.

AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)

AES [3], [4] is now the most widely used symmetric

cipher and most secure algorithm to date. DES was not

secure anymore, therefore a replacement was needed, thus

the advent of AES. As it uses a 128-bit key, it would take

a billion years to crack a message.

Fig. 6. AES for block size of 128 bits

It has the following attributes:

128-bit block size.

128, 192, or 256-bit key size. It has 9, 11 or 13

rounds depending on the size of the key.

An iterative rather than a Feistel cipher.

Treats data as 4 groups of 4 bytes.

Each round consists of:

o A byte substitution step (1 S-Box sued

on every byte).

o A shift rows step (shuffle the bytes

between groups).

o A mix columns step (matrix

multiplication of groups with each

other).

o An add-round key step.

All operations can be combined into XOR and

table lookups - hence implementation can be

very fast and efficient.

Although AES ensures enough security it hinders the

performance of resource-limited devices.

Blowfish

It is a popular symmetric block cipher that was designed

by Bruce Schneier in 1993. It divides the plaintext into

fixed size blocks of 64 bits each. It supports the key

variable size lengths that range from 32 bits to 448 bits.

To implement each round of blowfish algorithm [11], S

boxes and P boxes are used in F-function. P boxes are 32

bits in size and are 18 in total.

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S. Rana et. al

Fig. 7. Blowfish Algorithm

PRESENT

PRESENT [12] is a popular block cipher that was

designed for resource-constrained environments. It takes

variable key length that is either 80 bits or 128 bits. The

plaintext is divided into fixed blocks of 64 bits sized.

Standard SP (Substitution and Permutation) networks are

used for implementing every round function. It consists of

32 rounds, each of which includes an XOR operation

between key bits and plaintext, an SP network for

performing linear and non-linear transformations. The key

register is rotated to update the key schedule for the next

round.

Fig. 8. PRESENT Algorithm

HIGHT

It is a popular symmetric key cryptographic algorithm that

divides plaintext into fixed sized blocks of 64 bits each. It

supports 128 bits key length. The encryption process of

HIGHT [13] includes Initial Transformation, Round

function and Final Transformation. The Key Schedule

provides the functionality to generate Whitening keys

(WK) and Sub-keys(SK). There are eight Whitening keys

(WK7--WK0) for Initial and Final transformation. In total,

128 sub keys (SK127- -SK0) are used for round functions

and four Sub keys per round.

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S. Rana et. al

Fig. 9. HIGHT Algorithm

KLEIN

The typical Substitution-Permutation Network (SPN) is

used to build KLEIN [9] structure. In KLEIN 80, the

number of the round is 16. It generates a series of sub-

keys from a master key. However, the complexity of the

key generation must be adequate because the security

depends on it. To save memory and increase performance,

KLEIN generates sub-keys as transitions occur from one

round to the next round.

Fig. 10. KLEIN Algorithm

TEA

TEA [17] is a symmetric key cryptographic algorithm that

was designed by Roger Needham and David Wheeler at

the Computer Laboratory of Cambridge University. It

supports 128 bits key length and 64 bits data block. It uses

Feistel Network to implement the round functions but it

uses Addition and Subtraction as reversible operators

rather than XOR. Key scheduling uses the addition and

the number Delta, derived from the golden number is used

where . A multiple of the delta is

used in each round so that no bit of the multiple will not

change frequently.

Fig. 11. Tiny Encryption Algorithm

KATAN

KATAN [15] uses 80 bits key for all types of its

KATAN32, KATAN48, and KATAN64. This structure

uses a counter to count the number of rounds. Also for the

purpose of clocking, it uses the feedback

polynomial .

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S. Rana et. al

Fig. 12. KATAN Algorithm Structure

RC5

RC5 [20] is a popular block cipher with variable

parameters of the block size of 32, 64, 128 bits, secret key

size ranging from 0 to 2048 bits and number of rounds(1

to 255). Authors of RC5 used Feistel like network with

some arithmetic and logic operators like XOR, Rotate and

Addition. Although up to 12 rounds of RC5 for a block

size of 64 bits is vulnerable to a differential attack. The

successor of RC5 like RC6 [20], Akelarre is secure

enough.

Fig. 13. One round of RC5 for 64 bits of block size

SIMON

Simon [6] is a recently released block cipher which was

published by the NSA (National Security Agency) in June

2013.

Fig. 14. One round of Simon for 64 bits of block size

Authors proposed the cipher with variable parameters of

the block size of 32, 48, 64, 96 or 128 bits, the secret key

size of 64, 72, 96, 128,144,192 or 256 bits and number of

rounds (32 to 72). They used a balanced Feistel

Architecture. Each of the repeated rounds of the cipher

consists of some bit-wise and logic operators like XOR,

Rotate, etc. Although the security of the cipher up to 46

rounds for the block size of 128 bits can be broken by

differential attack, It is optimally efficient for the

performance in hardware implementations.

SPECK

The authors of Speck proposed varieties size of the data

block (multiple of 8 bits), key size and number of rounds

same as like Simon cipher. It was also published by the

NSA (National Security Agency) in June 2013. The

cipher is designed with ARX (Addition, Rotation, and

XOR) architecture. It is optimized for the performance in

software implementations.

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S. Rana et. al

Fig. 15. One round of Speck cipher for 64 bits of block size

SIT (Secure Internet Of Things)

In 2017, the authors of SIT [3] proposed a symmetric key

block cipher that uses 64-bit key over 64-bit data. Block

ciphers such as AES uses a substitution-permutation (SP)

network in order to integrate Shannon’s confusion and

diffusion properties. Other ciphers such as Blowfish and

DES use Feistel architecture using the advantage of

having almost the same encryption and decryption

operation. Their proposal is a combination of both Feistel

and SP networks using properties of the both to provide

substantial security but keeping the computation

complexities as minimum as possible. The algorithm has

two parts: key expansion and encryption. A 64-bit key is

taken as input by the user, divided into 4 blocks, supplied

into F-functions, arranged in 4X4 matrices and new five

unique keys are generated using some linear and non-

linear transformations. The encryption process consists of

logical operations, shifting, and substitutions. Although

other cipher uses 10 to 20 rounds, it uses the Feistel

network of 5 rounds that use the five unique generated

keys but provides enough confusion and diffusion.

Fig. 16. One round of SIT for 64 bits of block size

3. PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

In order to measure execution cycles and memory usage a

benchmark tool called FELICS (Fair Evaluation of

Lightweight Cryptographic Systems) [10] is used. It can

evaluate performance on different platforms (such as

AVR, MSP, ARM, and PC) and various performance

matrices. It can measure execution cycles, RAM footprint,

and binary code size on a specific platform. The tool is

available to be downloaded. It runs on Linux Ubuntu. A

virtual machine file incorporates both Linux Ubuntu and

FELICS that saves us from installing all prerequisites. We

use the virtual machine file and works excellently.

In this section, Five performance metrics [8] i.e., Size of

RAM to execute ciphers, the Code size of ciphers, Cycles

to generate rounds keys, Cycles for encryption and

decryption are considered to evaluate the performance of

different block ciphers.

127

S. Rana et. al

Ciphe

rs

Block Size

in bits

Key Size

in bits

Code Size

in Byte

RAM Size

in Byte

Cycles in

Key

Generation

Cycles in

Encryption

Cycles in

Decryption

AES

128

128

935

0

388

327

4

542

3

538

8

DES

64

56

170

9

468

216

6

361

7

359

2

HIG

HT

64

128

134

76

288

141

2

337

6

340

1

PRES

ENT

64

80

173

8

274

257

0

744

7

742

2

KAT

AN

64

80

638

215

462

7

141

26

112

39

KLEI

N

64

64

197

9

401

256

0

619

5

765

9

TEA

64

128

855

196

236

5

740

0

750

1

RC5

64

128

160

44

360

117

93

461

6

465

2

Simo

n

64

96

137

0

188

299

1

198

0

192

5

Speck

64

96

255

2

124

150

9

117

9

141

1

SIT

64

64

826

96

213

0

876

851

Table 1: Data table for the comparison of different Lightweight

Algorithms on AVR architecture

Fig. 4.1. Comparison on Code Size of different Ciphers

The code size of ciphers affects the performance on the

light-weight device. Now-a-days, most of the height-

weight devices like embedded devices, microcontroller

chips, RFID tags, etc. have enough ROM in range of MB

to store cryptographic algorithm. Above figure shows the

maximum code size of cipher like RC5 is 15KB. On the

other-hand, ciphers like KATAN, TEA, and SIT have less

code size as shown in the above figure.

Fig. 4.2. Comparison between RAM and program data size used

by different Ciphers

On the other-hand, used RAM size of the ciphers is very

important for performance of a light-weight device

because RAM of those devices is very limited. So the

ciphers which used minimum RAM while executing is the

efficient one. Like SIT, Simon, KATAN and TEA.

Another case is that some of the ciphers have little code

size while these ciphers waste too much physical memory

to perform encryption and decryption. Because these

ciphers have higher number of round. Typically, the

round of a light-weight cipher should be in between 5 to

20. In above graph, DES has little code size while it

requires Maximum RAM. On the other-hand, AES needs

less RAM while its code size is too high. Since Energy

consumption is directly related to size of used RAM while

executing instructions. So, AES is better than DES due to

using less physical memory. There is an issue that

security strength of a cipher depends on complexity of

computations. In general, higher rounds ensure high

security. But there is a trade-of between security and

complexity. In light-weight devices, ciphers of heavy

computation hinder the performance for the sake of

limitation of resources. So, it is not feasible to implement

the heavy ciphers on light-weight devices. On the other-

hand, ciphers of light-weight computation are easy to

break.

128

S. Rana et. al

Fig. 4.3. Comparison of execution cycles for Key generation,

Encryption and Decryption among different block ciphers

The above figure demonstrates that Execution cycles

require for key generation, encryption and decryption.

The execution cycle of ciphers is directly related to

Energy consumption. Since the resource-limited devices

are low powered battery operated. Hence, Energy

consumption should be as less as possible while the

strength of security for ciphers should be up to the

security level. In short, there is a trade-off between light-

weightiness and security. The entire security of a cipher

directly depends on keys are used to encrypt and decrypt

each block of message. So, generation of keys should be

enough complex. Once keys are generated then these keys

can be used for all blocks of data as well as all round of

cipher. Hence, Complex computation of key generation

doesn’t effect on the performance of devices like

Encryption and Decryption phases of ciphers. In the

above chart, SIT has enough secured key distribution

technique to ensure the security of keys. For that reason,

SIT requires more cycles than that of HIGHT, Speck, etc.

For KLEIN, PRESENT, and AES has less key scheduling

cycles than Encryption and decryption cycles. On the

other hand, KATAN has low execution for key

scheduling cycles but Encryption and decryption are high.

So, on average Simon, Speck, SIT, DES are more energy

efficient.

Scope of research on block ciphers:

Most of the block ciphers developed up to the

day ensures security based on the complexity of

number theory or different logic operation. The

neural network [18] is a good choice for

designing a security cipher.

Architecture used in block ciphers is either SP

Network (e.g., AES, PRESENT) or Feistel

Architecture like DES, Simon, etc. or both (

Blowfish, SIT, etc. ). Some features of

GAs(Genetic Algorithms) like Crossover

operators and Mutation [19] are the good option

to design the architecture of block ciphers.

Entire Security of the ciphers depends on keys.

So key scheduling should be designed not only

based on number theory rather than it can be

designed by applying advanced theories like Gas

[19], neural network [18], etc.

4. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK

In the era of internet, the light-weight cryptographic

algorithm has become essential to ensure security for

resource-constrained devices like wireless Network

sensors, RFID tags, and embedded device, etc. The

collected data table for performance evaluation is tested

on AVR architecture by FELICS (A Benchmark to

evaluate block ciphers on different metrics). In the near

future, these ciphers will be tested on more architectures

on more performance metrics. Besides the performance of

ciphers, the strength of security should be up to the mark.

So for further improvement and analysis, these ciphers

will be tested on different security aspects like Entropy,

Co-relation, etc.

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