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Protocol weakness in DHE-PSK key exchange

Title Protocol weakness in DHE-PSK key exchange
CVE Unknown
Date 1st of September, 2020
Affects All versions of Mbed TLS
Impact An active network attacker can learn the size of the pre-shared key
Severity Low
Credit Robert Merget, Marcus Brinkmann, Nimrod Aviram and Juraj Somorovsky


This is an advisory of a security vulnerability in the TLS specification, which has very limited impact on Mbed TLS: the Raccoon attack (for details see the website and the paper).

In the TLS protocol, the calculation of the premaster secret from the finite-field Diffie-Hellman (FFDH) shared secret strips the leading zero bytes. If the Diffie-Hellman private key is reused, side channels during this calculation may allow an adversary to recover bits of the premaster secret. Since Mbed TLS does not support static finite-field Diffie-Hellman nor the reuse of ephemeral keys, the library is not vulnerable to this class of attacks.

When using Diffie-Hellman combined with a pre-shared key (DHE-PSK cipher suites), the premaster secret is constructed by concatenating the pre-shared key with other elements. Side channels during this calculation may reveal the length of the pre-shared key. Mbed TLS is vulnerable to this attack.

Elliptic curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH, including ECDHE) is not affected in the same way because the shared secret is used directly without any truncation. There is a potential implementation flaw if the calculation of the shared secret truncates leading zero digits and then pads them back, leading to the same vulnerabilities as in the FFDH case. Mbed TLS copies the shared secret directly without inspecting the leading digits, so it is not vulnerable to this class of attacks.


Adversaries may be able to learn the size of the pre-shared key in used DHE-PSK cipher suites.


It is unusual to rely on the confidentiality of the length of a key. Even the minimum length of the key needs to be sufficiently large not to be vulnerable to brute-force attacks. As a consequence, we do not plan to mitigate this issue in Mbed TLS.


If you use a DHE-PSK cipher suite, treat the length of the pre-shared key as a public quantity. If you have privacy concerns, always use a pre-shared key of the same length.

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Security Advisories



Last updated:
Sep 10, 2020


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