International Data Encryption Algorithm

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International Data Encryption Algorithm

Fall 2004


How-Shen Chang

Table of Contents:

Description of IDEA3
Key Generation3
Modes of operation6
Weak keys for IDEA6


The Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm has been a popular secret key encryption algorithm and is used in many commercial and financial applications. Although introduced in 1976, it has proved resistant to all forms of cryptanalysis. However, its key size is too small by current standards and its entire 56 bit key space can be searched in approximately 22 hours [1]. International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA) is a block cipher designed by Xuejia Lai and James L. Massey of ETH-Zürich and was first described in 1991. It is a minor revision of an earlier cipher, PES (Proposed Encryption Standard); IDEA was originally called IPES (Improved PES). IDEA was used as the symmetric cipher in early versions of the Pretty Good Privacy cryptosystem. IDEA was to develop a strong encryption algorithm, which would replace the DES procedure developed in the U.S.A. in the seventies. It is also interesting in that it entirely avoids the use of any lookup tables or S-boxes. When the famous PGP email and file encryption product was designed by Phil Zimmermann, the developers were looking for maximum security. IDEA was their first choice for data encryption based on its proven design and its great reputation.

The IDEA encryption algorithm
• provides high level security not based on keeping the algorithm a secret, but rather upon ignorance of the secret key • is fully specified and easily understood
• is available to everybody
• is suitable for use in a wide range of applications
• can be economically implemented in electronic components (VLSI Chip) • can be used efficiently
• may be exported world wide
• is patent protected to prevent fraud and piracy

Description of IDEA

The block cipher IDEA operates with 64-bit plaintext and cipher text blocks and is controlled by a 128-bit key. The fundamental innovation in the design of this algorithm is the use of operations from three different algebraic groups. The substitution boxes and the associated table lookups used in the block ciphers available to-date have been completely avoided. The algorithm structure has been chosen such that, with the exception that different key sub-blocks are used, the encryption process is identical to the decryption process.

Key Generation

The 64-bit plaintext block is partitioned into four 16-bit sub-blocks, since all the algebraic operations used in the encryption process operate on 16-bit numbers. Another process produces for each of the encryption rounds, six 16-bit key sub-blocks from the 128-bit key. Since a further four 16-bit key-sub-blocks are required for the subsequent output transformation, a total of 52 (= 8 x 6 + 4) different 16-bit sub-blocks have to be generated from the 128-bit key. The key sub-blocks used for the encryption and the decryption in the individual rounds are shown in Table 1.


The 52 16-bit key sub-blocks which are generated from the 128-bit key are produced as follows:

• First, the 128-bit key is partitioned into eight 16-bit sub-blocks which are then directly used as the first eight key sub-blocks. • The 128-bit key is then cyclically shifted to the left by 25 positions, after which the resulting 128-bit block is again partitioned into eight 16-bit sub-blocks to be directly used as the next eight key sub-blocks. • The cyclic shift procedure described above is repeated until all of the required 52 16-bit key sub-blocks have been generated.


The functional representation of the encryption process is shown in Figure 1. The process consists of eight identical encryption steps (known as encryption rounds)...
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