In cryptography, a Feistel cipher is a symmetric structure used in the construction of block ciphers, named after the Germanborn physicist and cryptographer Horst Feistel who did pioneering research while working for IBM (USA); it is also commonly known as a Feistel network. A large proportion of block ciphers use the scheme, including the Data Encryption Standard (DES). The Feistel structure has the advantage that encryption and decryption operations are very similar, even identical in some cases, requiring only a reversal of the key schedule. Therefore the size of the code or circuitry required to implement such a cipher is nearly halved.
A Feistel network is an iterated cipher with an internal function called a round function.^{[1]}
Historical[]
Feistel networks were first seen commercially in IBM's Lucifer cipher, designed by Horst Feistel and Don Coppersmith. Feistel networks gained respectability when the U.S. Federal Government adopted the DES (a cipher based on Lucifer, with changes made by the NSA). Like other components of the DES, the iterative nature of the Feistel construction makes implementing the cryptosystem in hardware easier (particularly on the hardware available at the time of DES' design).
Theoretical work[]
Many modern and also some old symmetric block ciphers are based on Feistel networks (e.g. GOST 2814789 block cipher), and the structure and properties of Feistel ciphers have been extensively explored by cryptographers. Specifically, Michael Luby and Charles Rackoff analyzed the Feistel cipher construction, and proved that if the round function is a cryptographically secure pseudorandom function, with K_{i} used as the seed, then 3 rounds is sufficient to make the block cipher a pseudorandom permutation, while 4 rounds is sufficient to make it a "strong" pseudorandom permutation (which means that it remains pseudorandom even to an adversary who gets oracle access to its inverse permutation).^{[2]}
Because of this very important result of Luby and Rackoff, Feistel ciphers are sometimes called LubyRackoff block ciphers. Further theoretical work has generalized the construction somewhat, and given more precise bounds for security.^{[3]}
Construction details[]
Let be the round function and let be the subkeys for the rounds respectively.
Then the basic operation is as follows:
Split the plaintext block into two equal pieces, (, )
For each round , compute
 .
Then the ciphertext is .
Decryption of a ciphertext is accomplished by computing for
 .
Then is the plaintext again.
One advantage of the Feistel model compared to a substitutionpermutation network is that the round function does not have to be invertible.
The diagram illustrates both encryption and decryption. Note the reversal of the subkey order for decryption; this is the only difference between encryption and decryption.
Unbalanced Feistel cipher[]
Unbalanced Feistel ciphers use a modified structure where and are not of equal lengths.^{[4]} The Skipjack encryption algorithm is an example of such a cipher. The Texas Instruments Digital Signature Transponder uses a proprietary unbalanced Feistel cipher to perform challengeresponse authentication.^{[5]}
The Thorp shuffle is an extreme case of an unbalanced Feistel cipher in which one side is a single bit. This has better provable security than a balanced Feistel cipher but requires more rounds.^{[6]}
Other uses[]
The Feistel construction is also used in cryptographic algorithms other than block ciphers. For example, the Optimal Asymmetric Encryption Padding (OAEP) scheme uses a simple Feistel network to randomize ciphertexts in certain asymmetric key encryption schemes.
A generalized Feistel algorithm can be used to create strong permutations on small domains of size not a power of two (see FormatPreserving Encryption).
Feistel networks as a design component[]
Whether the entire cipher is a Feistel cipher or not, Feistellike networks can be used as a component of a cipher's design. For example, MISTY1 is a Feistel cipher using a threeround Feistel network in its round function, Skipjack is a modified Feistel cipher using a Feistel network in its G permutation, and Threefish (part of Skein) is a nonFeistel block cipher that uses a Feistellike MIX function.
List of Feistel ciphers[]
Feistel or modified Feistel: Blowfish, Camellia, CAST128, DES, FEAL, ICE, KASUMI, LOKI97, Lucifer, MARS, MAGENTA, MISTY1, RC5, TEA, Triple DES, Twofish, XTEA, GOST 2814789
Generalised Feistel: CAST256, MacGuffin, RC2, RC6, Skipjack, SMS4
References[]
 ↑ Handbook of Applied Cryptography by Alfred J. Menezes, Paul C. van Oorschot, Scott A. Vanstone. Fifth Printing (August 2001) page 251.
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 ↑ http://www.schneier.com/paperunbalancedfeistel.html
 ↑ S. Bono, M. Green, A. Stubblefield, A. Rubin, A. Juels, M. Szydlo. "Security Analysis of a CryptographicallyEnabled RFID Device". In Proceedings of the USENIX Security Symposium, August 2005. (pdf)
 ↑ Ben Morris, Phillip Rogaway, Till Stegers. "How to Encipher Messages on a Small Domain". CRYPTO 2009. (pdf)
See also[]
 Cryptography
 Stream cipher
 Substitutionpermutation network
 Lifting scheme for discrete wavelet transform has pretty much the same structure
 FormatPreserving Encryption

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