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Can we use a MAC to transform a CPA secure encryption scheme into CCA secure one?

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    $\begingroup$ How does encrypt-then-MAC protect from CCA? and may be more.. And remember AEAD > CCAx $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you @kelalaka. $\endgroup$
    – user104304
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ The straightforward approach is to use a MAC to create an AE scheme (typically using Encrypt-then-MAC), which then implies CCA security. But there are subtleties in the security required for the MAC. Check here: eprint.iacr.org/2000/025. Alternatively, MAC-then-Encrypt is also a (very fragile) option and only works for specific combinations of encryption and MACs. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 23:17

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I will assume that the question is more conceptual and doesn't necessarily ask what one "should" do in real life. One can take a couple of approaches to achieve what is asked in the question. But, speaking abstractly, the straightforward answer is to use the MAC with the CPA secure encryption scheme to build an AE secure encryption scheme. The reason this works is that AE security implies CCA security. For proof, refer to This paper by Mihir Bellare and Chanathip Namprempre. We, therefore, have several concrete options:

  1. Encrypt-then-MAC: This is the straightforward answer as it is a generically safe construction for an AE secure scheme. However, the devil is in the details. For this construction to be secure, we need that the MAC provides the stronger security that is SUF-CMA (the adversary should not produce a pair of message-tag $(m,t)$ that was already created in the game.

  2. MAC-then-Encrypt: As discussed in the paper I linked to, this construction doesn't generically provide AE security. Hence it is not always expected to provide CCA security. But there are specific combinations such that this method provides AE security. Namely, assuming the encryption scheme is "stream cipher" like or is the CBC mode without padding, then the MtE construction achieves AE security and, therefore, CCA security. See This paper by Hugo Krawczyk or the CCM mode of operation for AEAD.

Practically speaking, based on the most important criteria, one would use properly implemented AEAD schemes like GCM, CCM, GCM-SIV, Chacha20-Poly1305, and so on. These will provide CCA out of the box.

For further discussions on generic composition of encryption and MAC, see answer to this questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that this Should we MAC-then-encrypt or encrypt-then-MAC? is our canonical Q/A. $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @kelalaka, I added a reference to the question and answer. Although it seems to me, it doesn't "obviously" answer OP's question. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 11:37

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