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**Published in:** LIPIcs, Volume 267, 4th Conference on Information-Theoretic Cryptography (ITC 2023)

In this work we study a new information theoretic problem, called online merging, that has direct applications for constructing public-state accumulators and registration-based encryption schemes. An {online merger} receives the sequence of sets {1}, {2}, … in an online way, and right after receiving {i}, it can re-partition the elements 1,…,i into T₁,…,T_{m_i} by merging some of these sets. The goal of the merger is to balance the trade-off between the maximum number of sets wid = max_{i ∈ [n]} m_i that co-exist at any moment, called the width of the scheme, with its depth dep = max_{i ∈ [n]} d_i, where d_i is the number of times that the sets that contain i get merged. An online merger can be used to maintain a set of Merkle trees that occasionally get merged.
An online merger can be directly used to obtain public-state accumulators (using collision-resistant hashing) and registration-based encryptions (relying on more assumptions). Doing so, the width of an online merger translates into the size of the public-parameter of the constructed scheme, and the depth of the online algorithm corresponds to the number of times that parties need to update their "witness" (for accumulators) or their decryption key (for RBE).
In this work, we construct online mergers with poly(log n) width and O(log n / log log n) depth, which can be shown to be optimal for all schemes with poly(log n) width. More generally, we show how to achieve optimal depth for a given fixed width and to achieve a 2-approximate optimal width for a given depth d that can possibly grow as a function of n (e.g., d = 2 or d = log n / log log n). As applications, we obtain accumulators with O(log n / log log n) number of updates for parties' witnesses (which can be shown to be optimal for accumulator digests of length poly(log n)) as well as registration based encryptions that again have an optimal O(log n / log log n) number of decryption updates, resolving the open question of Mahmoody, Rahimi, Qi [TCC'22] who proved that Ω(log n / log log n) number of decryption updates are necessary for any RBE (with public parameter of length poly(log n)). More generally, for any given number of decryption updates d = d(n) (under believable computational assumptions) our online merger implies RBE schemes with public parameters of length that is optimal, up to a constant factor that depends on the security parameter. For example, for any constant number of updates d, we get RBE schemes with public parameters of length O(n^{1/(d+1)}).

Mohammad Mahmoody and Wei Qi. Online Mergers and Applications to Registration-Based Encryption and Accumulators. In 4th Conference on Information-Theoretic Cryptography (ITC 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 267, pp. 15:1-15:23, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)

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@InProceedings{mahmoody_et_al:LIPIcs.ITC.2023.15, author = {Mahmoody, Mohammad and Qi, Wei}, title = {{Online Mergers and Applications to Registration-Based Encryption and Accumulators}}, booktitle = {4th Conference on Information-Theoretic Cryptography (ITC 2023)}, pages = {15:1--15:23}, series = {Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)}, ISBN = {978-3-95977-271-6}, ISSN = {1868-8969}, year = {2023}, volume = {267}, editor = {Chung, Kai-Min}, publisher = {Schloss Dagstuhl -- Leibniz-Zentrum f{\"u}r Informatik}, address = {Dagstuhl, Germany}, URL = {https://drops.dagstuhl.de/entities/document/10.4230/LIPIcs.ITC.2023.15}, URN = {urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-183432}, doi = {10.4230/LIPIcs.ITC.2023.15}, annote = {Keywords: Registration-based encryption, Accumulators, Merkle Trees} }

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**Published in:** LIPIcs, Volume 185, 12th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2021)

Black-box separations have been successfully used to identify the limits of a powerful set of tools in cryptography, namely those of black-box reductions. They allow proving that a large set of techniques are not capable of basing one primitive 𝒫 on another 𝒬. Such separations, however, do not say anything about the power of the combination of primitives 𝒬₁,𝒬₂ for constructing 𝒫, even if 𝒫 cannot be based on 𝒬₁ or 𝒬₂ alone.
By introducing and formalizing the notion of black-box uselessness, we develop a framework that allows us to make such conclusions. At an informal level, we call primitive 𝒬 black-box useless (BBU) for 𝒫 if 𝒬 cannot help constructing 𝒫 in a black-box way, even in the presence of another primitive 𝒵. This is formalized by saying that 𝒬 is BBU for 𝒫 if for any auxiliary primitive 𝒵, whenever there exists a black-box construction of 𝒫 from (𝒬,𝒵), then there must already also exist a black-box construction of 𝒫 from 𝒵 alone. We also formalize various other notions of black-box uselessness, and consider in particular the setting of efficient black-box constructions when the number of queries to 𝒬 is below a threshold.
Impagliazzo and Rudich (STOC'89) initiated the study of black-box separations by separating key agreement from one-way functions. We prove a number of initial results in this direction, which indicate that one-way functions are perhaps also black-box useless for key agreement. In particular, we show that OWFs are black-box useless in any construction of key agreement in either of the following settings: (1) the key agreement has perfect correctness and one of the parties calls the OWF a constant number of times; (2) the key agreement consists of a single round of interaction (as in Merkle-type protocols). We conjecture that OWFs are indeed black-box useless for general key agreement.
We also show that certain techniques for proving black-box separations can be lifted to the uselessness regime. In particular, we show that the lower bounds of Canetti, Kalai, and Paneth (TCC'15) as well as Garg, Mahmoody, and Mohammed (Crypto'17 & TCC'17) for assumptions behind indistinguishability obfuscation (IO) can be extended to derive black-box uselessness of a variety of primitives for obtaining (approximately correct) IO. These results follow the so-called "compiling out" technique, which we prove to imply black-box uselessness.
Eventually, we study the complementary landscape of black-box uselessness, namely black-box helpfulness. We put forth the conjecture that one-way functions are black-box helpful for building collision-resistant hash functions. We define two natural relaxations of this conjecture, and prove that both of these conjectures are implied by a natural conjecture regarding random permutations equipped with a collision finder oracle, as defined by Simon (Eurocrypt'98). This conjecture may also be of interest in other contexts, such as amplification of hardness.

Geoffroy Couteau, Pooya Farshim, and Mohammad Mahmoody. Black-Box Uselessness: Composing Separations in Cryptography. In 12th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 185, pp. 47:1-47:20, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)

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@InProceedings{couteau_et_al:LIPIcs.ITCS.2021.47, author = {Couteau, Geoffroy and Farshim, Pooya and Mahmoody, Mohammad}, title = {{Black-Box Uselessness: Composing Separations in Cryptography}}, booktitle = {12th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2021)}, pages = {47:1--47:20}, series = {Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)}, ISBN = {978-3-95977-177-1}, ISSN = {1868-8969}, year = {2021}, volume = {185}, editor = {Lee, James R.}, publisher = {Schloss Dagstuhl -- Leibniz-Zentrum f{\"u}r Informatik}, address = {Dagstuhl, Germany}, URL = {https://drops.dagstuhl.de/entities/document/10.4230/LIPIcs.ITCS.2021.47}, URN = {urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-135869}, doi = {10.4230/LIPIcs.ITCS.2021.47}, annote = {Keywords: Black-Box Reductions, Separations, One-Way Functions, Key Agreement} }

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Track A: Algorithms, Complexity and Games

**Published in:** LIPIcs, Volume 168, 47th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2020)

Boneh, Bonneau, Bünz, and Fisch (CRYPTO 2018) recently introduced the notion of a verifiable delay function (VDF). VDFs are functions that take a long sequential time T to compute, but whose outputs y := Eval(x) can be efficiently verified (possibly given a proof π) in time t ≪ T (e.g., t = poly(λ, log T) where λ is the security parameter). The first security requirement on a VDF, called uniqueness, is that no polynomial-time algorithm can find a convincing proof π' that verifies for an input x and a different output y' ≠ y. The second security requirement, called sequentiality, is that no polynomial-time algorithm running in time σ < T for some parameter σ (e.g., σ = T^{1/10}) can compute y, even with poly(T,λ) many parallel processors. Starting from the work of Boneh et al., there are now multiple constructions of VDFs from various algebraic assumptions.
In this work, we study whether VDFs can be constructed from ideal hash functions in a black-box way, as modeled in the random oracle model (ROM). In the ROM, we measure the running time by the number of oracle queries and the sequentiality by the number of rounds of oracle queries. We rule out two classes of constructions of VDFs in the ROM:
- We show that VDFs satisfying perfect uniqueness (i.e., VDFs where no different convincing solution y' ≠ y exists) cannot be constructed in the ROM. More formally, we give an attacker that finds the solution y in ≈ t rounds of queries, asking only poly(T) queries in total.
- We also rule out tight verifiable delay functions in the ROM. Tight verifiable delay functions, recently studied by Döttling, Garg, Malavolta, and Vasudevan (ePrint Report 2019), require sequentiality for σ ≈ T-T^ρ for some constant 0 < ρ < 1. More generally, our lower bound also applies to proofs of sequential work (i.e., VDFs without the uniqueness property), even in the private verification setting, and sequentiality σ > T-(T)/(2t) for a concrete verification time t.

Mohammad Mahmoody, Caleb Smith, and David J. Wu. Can Verifiable Delay Functions Be Based on Random Oracles?. In 47th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 168, pp. 83:1-83:17, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)

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@InProceedings{mahmoody_et_al:LIPIcs.ICALP.2020.83, author = {Mahmoody, Mohammad and Smith, Caleb and Wu, David J.}, title = {{Can Verifiable Delay Functions Be Based on Random Oracles?}}, booktitle = {47th International Colloquium on Automata, Languages, and Programming (ICALP 2020)}, pages = {83:1--83:17}, series = {Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)}, ISBN = {978-3-95977-138-2}, ISSN = {1868-8969}, year = {2020}, volume = {168}, editor = {Czumaj, Artur and Dawar, Anuj and Merelli, Emanuela}, publisher = {Schloss Dagstuhl -- Leibniz-Zentrum f{\"u}r Informatik}, address = {Dagstuhl, Germany}, URL = {https://drops.dagstuhl.de/entities/document/10.4230/LIPIcs.ICALP.2020.83}, URN = {urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-124907}, doi = {10.4230/LIPIcs.ICALP.2020.83}, annote = {Keywords: verifiable delay function, lower bound, random oracle model} }

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