[][src]Crate spake2

An implementation of the SPAKE2 password-authenticated key-exchange algorithm

This library implements the SPAKE2 password-authenticated key exchange ("PAKE") algorithm. This allows two parties, who share a weak password, to safely derive a strong shared secret (and therefore build an encrypted+authenticated channel).

A passive attacker who eavesdrops on the connection learns no information about the password or the generated secret. An active attacker (man-in-the-middle) gets exactly one guess at the password, and unless they get it right, they learn no information about the password or the generated secret. Each execution of the protocol enables one guess. The use of a weak password is made safer by the rate-limiting of guesses: no off-line dictionary attack is available to the network-level attacker, and the protocol does not depend upon having previously-established confidentiality of the network (unlike e.g. sending a plaintext password over TLS).

The protocol requires the exchange of one pair of messages, so only one round trip is necessary to establish the session key. If key-confirmation is necessary, that will require a second round trip.

All messages are bytestrings. For the default security level (using the Ed25519 elliptic curve, roughly equivalent to an 128-bit symmetric key), the message is 33 bytes long.

This implementation is generic over a Group, which defines the cyclic group to use, the functions which convert group elements and scalars to and from bytestrings, and the three distinctive group elements used in the blinding process. Only one such Group is implemented, named Ed25519Group, which provides fast operations and high security, and is compatible with my python implementation.

What Is It Good For?

PAKE can be used in a pairing protocol, like the initial version of Firefox Sync (the one with J-PAKE), to introduce one device to another and help them share secrets. In this mode, one device creates a random code, the user copies that code to the second device, then both devices use the code as a one-time password and run the PAKE protocol. Once both devices have a shared strong key, they can exchange other secrets safely.

PAKE can also be used (carefully) in a login protocol, where SRP is perhaps the best-known approach. Traditional non-PAKE login consists of sending a plaintext password through a TLS-encrypted channel, to a server which then checks it (by hashing/stretching and comparing against a stored verifier). In a PAKE login, both sides put the password into their PAKE protocol, and then confirm that their generated key is the same. This nominally does not require the initial TLS-protected channel. However note that it requires other, deeper design considerations (the PAKE protocol must be bound to whatever protected channel you end up using, else the attacker can wait for PAKE to complete normally and then steal the channel), and is not simply a drop-in replacement. In addition, the server cannot hash/stretch the password very much (see the note on "Augmented PAKE" below), so unless the client is willing to perform key-stretching before running PAKE, the server's stored verifier will be vulnerable to a low-cost dictionary attack.


Add the spake2 dependency to yourCargo.toml`:

spake2 = "0.1"

and this to your crate root:

extern crate spake2;

Alice and Bob both initialize their SPAKE2 instances with the same (weak) password. They will exchange messages to (hopefully) derive a shared secret key. The protocol is symmetric: for each operation that Alice does, Bob will do the same.

However, there are two roles in the SPAKE2 protocol, "A" and "B". The two sides must agree ahead of time which one will play which role (the messages they generate depend upon which side they play). There are two separate constructor functions, start_a() and start_b(), and a complete interaction will use one of each (one start_a on one computer, and one start_b on the other computer).

Each instance of a SPAKE2 protocol uses a set of shared parameters. These include a group, a generator, and a pair of arbitrary group elements. This library comes a single pre-generated parameter set, but could be extended with others.

You start by calling start_a() (or _b) with the password and identity strings for both sides. This gives you back a state object and the first message, which you must send to your partner. Once you receive the corresponding inbound message, you pass it into the state object (consuming both in the process) by calling s.finish(), and you get back the shared key as a bytestring.

The password and identity strings must each be wrapped in a "newtype", which is a simple struct that protects against swapping the different types of bytestrings.

Thus a client-side program start with:

use spake2::{Ed25519Group, Identity, Password, SPAKE2};
let (s1, outbound_msg) = SPAKE2::<Ed25519Group>::start_a(
   &Identity::new(b"client id string"),
   &Identity::new(b"server id string"));

let inbound_msg = receive();
let key1 = s1.finish(&inbound_msg).unwrap();

while the server-side might do:

use spake2::{Ed25519Group, Identity, Password, SPAKE2};
let (s1, outbound_msg) = SPAKE2::<Ed25519Group>::start_b(
   &Identity::new(b"client id string"),
   &Identity::new(b"server id string"));

let inbound_msg = receive();
let key2 = s1.finish(&inbound_msg).unwrap();

If both sides used the same password, and there is no man-in-the-middle, then key1 and key2 will be identical. If not, the two sides will get different keys. When one side encrypts with key1, and the other side attempts to decrypt with key2, they'll get nothing but garbled noise.

The shared key can be used as an HMAC key to provide data integrity on subsequent messages, or as an authenticated-encryption key (e.g. nacl.secretbox). It can also be fed into HKDF to derive other session keys as necessary.

The SPAKE2 instances, and the messages they create, are single-use. Create a new one for each new session. finish consumes the instance.

Symmetric Usage

A single SPAKE2 instance must be used asymmetrically: the two sides must somehow decide (ahead of time) which role they will each play. The implementation includes the side identifier in the exchanged message to guard against a start_a talking to another start_a. Typically a "client" will take on the A role, and the "server" will be B.

This is a nuisance for more egalitarian protocols, where there's no clear way to assign these roles ahead of time. In this case, use start_symmetric() on both sides. This uses a different set of parameters (so it is not interoperable with start_A or start_b), but should otherwise behave the same way. The symmetric mode uses only one identity string, not two.

Carol does:

use spake2::{Ed25519Group, Identity, Password, SPAKE2};
let (s1, outbound_msg) = SPAKE2::<Ed25519Group>::start_symmetric(
   &Identity::new(b"shared id string"));

let inbound_msg = receive();
let key1 = s1.finish(&inbound_msg).unwrap();

Dave does exactly the same:

use spake2::{Ed25519Group, Identity, Password, SPAKE2};
let (s1, outbound_msg) = SPAKE2::<Ed25519Group>::start_symmetric(
   &Identity::new(b"shared id string"));

let inbound_msg = receive();
let key1 = s1.finish(&inbound_msg).unwrap();

Identifier Strings

The SPAKE2 protocol includes a pair of "identity strings" idA and idB that are included in the final key-derivation hash. This binds the key to a single pair of parties, or for some specific purpose.

For example, when user "alice" logs into "example.com", both sides should set idA = b"alice" and idB = b"example.com". This prevents an attacker from substituting messages from unrelated login sessions (other users on the same server, or other servers for the same user).

This also makes sure the session is established with the correct service. If Alice has one password for "example.com" but uses it for both login and file-transfer services, idB should be different for the two services. Otherwise if Alice is simultaneously connecting to both services, and attacker could rearrange the messages and cause her login client to connect to the file-transfer server, and vice versa.

idA and idB must be bytestrings (slices of <u8>).

start_symmetric uses a single idSymmetric= string, instead of idA and idB. Both sides must provide the same idSymmetric=, or leave it empty.


Sometimes, you can't hold the SPAKE2 instance in memory for the whole negotiation: perhaps all your program state is stored in a database, and nothing lives in RAM for more than a few moments.

Unfortunately the Rust implementation does not yet provide serialization of the state object. A future version should correct this.


This library is probably not constant-time, and does not protect against timing attacks. Do not allow attackers to measure how long it takes you to create or respond to a message. This matters somewhat less for pairing protocols, because their passwords are single-use randomly-generated keys, so an attacker has much less to work with.

This library depends upon a strong source of random numbers. Do not use it on a system where os.urandom() is weak.


To run the built-in speed tests, just run cargo bench.

SPAKE2 consists of two phases, separated by a single message exchange. The time these phases take is split roughly 50/50. On my 2.8GHz Core-i7 (i7-7600U) cpu, the built-in Ed25519Group parameters take about 112 microseconds for each phase, and the message exchanged is 33 bytes long.


Run cargo test to run the built-in test suite.


The protocol was described as "PAKE2" in "cryptobook" from Dan Boneh and Victor Shoup. This is a form of "SPAKE2", defined by Abdalla and Pointcheval at RSA 2005. Additional recommendations for groups and distinguished elements were published in Ladd's IETF draft.

The Ed25519 implementation uses code adapted from Daniel Bernstein (djb), Matthew Dempsky, Daniel Holth, Ron Garret, with further optimizations by Brian Warner5. The "arbitrary element" computation, which must be the same for both participants, is from python-pure25519 version 0.5.

The Boneh/Shoup chapter that defines PAKE2 also defines an augmented variant named "PAKE2+", which changes one side (typically a server) to record a derivative of the password instead of the actual password. In PAKE2+, a server compromise does not immediately give access to the passwords: instead, the attacker must perform an offline dictionary attack against the stolen data before they can learn the passwords. PAKE2+ support is planned, but not yet implemented.

The security of the symmetric case was proved by Kobara/Imai6 in 2003, and uses different (slightly weaker?) reductions than that of the asymmetric form. See also Mike Hamburg's analysis7 from 2015.

Brian Warner first wrote the Python version in July 2010. He wrote this Rust version in in May 2017.