I need some insight in how to break the following RSA problem:

From an RSA encryption scheme you know that the algorithm that generated the RSA modulus $N$ always outputs moduli of the form $N = pq$ such that the difference between $q^2$ and $p$ is not bigger than $2^8$ in absolute value.

My question is: Shall I try to factor $N$? Which method should I use if so?

Somewhat related is this question.

Solving for $q$, I have that $q$ is between the square root of $p-2^8$ and the square root of $p+2^8$.


2 Answers 2


You can find the factor $q$ just by taking the cube root of $N$ and rounding to the nearest integer!

If $N = pq$ where $p = q^2 + \delta$, then: $$\sqrt[3]N = \sqrt[3]{q(q^2 + \delta)} = \sqrt[3]{q^3 \left( 1+\frac{\delta}{q^2}\right)} = q \cdot \sqrt[3]{1+\frac{\delta}{q^2}}.$$

Thus, as long as $2|\delta| < q$ then, given that $|1-x| \le |1-x^3|$ for all $x \ge 0$: $$\left|q - \sqrt[3]N\right| = q\left|1 - \sqrt[3]{1 + \tfrac{\delta}{q^2}}\right| \le q\left|1 - \left(1 + \tfrac{\delta}{q^2}\right)\right| = \tfrac{|\delta|}{q} < \tfrac12,$$ and so $\sqrt[3]N$ rounds to $q$.

(A more precise calculation, using the fact that $q \ge 2$ and that $|1-\sqrt[3]{1+x}| \le \frac{|x|}2$ for all $|x| \le \frac12$, shows that this actually works even up to $|\delta| < q$.)

More generally, even if $|\delta|$ could be several times as large as $q$, you could still solve the problem efficiently by starting with the approximate solution $\tilde q = \sqrt[3]N$ and testing nearby integers $q \approx \tilde q$ until you find one that evenly divides $N$.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm sceptical of your series for $\sqrt[3]N$: Using the binomial series, I (contradictorily) get $\sqrt[3]N=\sum_{k=0}^\infty\binom{1/3}k\delta^kq^{1-2k}$, which also happens to converge even faster than yours: In fact, for $\lvert\delta\rvert<q$, we already have $q=\operatorname{round}(\sqrt[3]N)$. (To prove this, observe $\lvert\binom{1/3}k\rvert\leq\frac13$ for $k\geq1$ and derive the upper bound $\frac q{3(q-1)}<\frac12$ for the approximation error $\lvert\sum_{k=1}^\infty\binom{1/3}k\delta^kq^{1-2k}\rvert$ using the geometric series.) $\endgroup$
    – yyyyyyy
    Nov 2, 2016 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ @yyyyyyy: You're absolutely right, I screwed up that series somehow (by introducing an extra factor of $q$ somewhere, I think). Fixing that simplifies the answer considerably, too. $\endgroup$ Nov 2, 2016 at 13:57

Note: Ilmari Karonen's method is superior to mine regarding just about every aspect: It generalizes nicely to much larger $\lvert q^2-p\rvert$, it is easier to implement (no polynomial factorization), and it is very lightweight in terms of computational effort.

Let $p=q^2+\delta$, such that $\lvert\delta\rvert\leq 2^8$. Thus, $$N=pq=(q^2+\delta)q=q^3+\delta q \text.$$ Therefore $q$ is a root of the polynomial $f:=X^3+\delta X-N\in\mathbb Z[X]$, and since $\delta$ is chosen from the small set $\{-2^8,\dots,2^8\}$ you can iterate over all possible values of $\delta$ and try to factor $f$ until you find $q$. For example, in sage, you can use the following code:

R.<X> = ZZ[]
for d in range(-2**8, 2**8+1):
    xs = factor(X ** 3 + d * X - N)
    if xs[0][0].degree() == 1 and not N % xs[0][0][0]:
        print('q = {}'.format(-xs[0][0][0]))

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