Given the normal discrete logarithm problem:

$$a = b^c \mod{P}$$

with prime $P$ and numbers $a,b,c$

For which kind of $P,b$ the NFS/IC algorithm is faster than Baby-Step/Giant-Step+ Pollard's Rho ($\approx \mathcal{O}(\sqrt{q}) $)?

(with $q$ the biggest prime in factorization of $P-1$, with $P$ big prime)

Or in which cases NFS/IC it used?


2 Answers 2


Using its notation, the question is about the difficulty of the Discrete Logarithm Problem in a Schnorr Group modulo $P$, of prime order $q$. I'll assume $b^q\bmod P=1$ and $b\bmod P\ne1$.

That DLP problem is finding $c$ chosen at random in $[0,q)$ given $P$, $q$, $b$, and $a$ obtained as $b^c\bmod P$. Depending on parameters, the best known algorithms fall into two complexity classes:

  • somewhere between $\mathcal O(\sqrt{q}\,\ln P\,\ln\ln P)$ [in theory] and $\mathcal O(\sqrt{q}\,\ln^2 P)$ for Baby-Step/Giant-Step and it's practical improvement: Pollard's Rho with distinguished points (which can be efficiently distributed and requires little memory; see Paul C. van Oorschot and Michael J. Wiener, Parallel Collision Search with Cryptanalytic Applications, in Journal of Cryptology, 1999). The cost is often stated as $\mathcal O(\sqrt{q})$ multiplications of integers of size $P$, and this has been recently shown to cost $\mathcal O(\ln P\,\ln\ln P)$, see this.

  • something like $\exp\left( \left(\sqrt[3]{\frac{64}{9}} + o(1)\right)(\ln P)^{\frac{1}{3}}(\ln \ln P)^{\frac{2}{3}}\right)$, for the Number Field Sieve applied to the Discrete Logarithm (see this).

in which cases is NFS/Index Calculus used?

For a given size of $q$, the first class of algorithms (Pollard's Rho..) is best for large $P$. The second (NFS) is faster for relatively small $P$, including $q$ a Sophie Germain prime (equivalently, $P$ a safe prime).

For 256‑bit $q$, the first class of algorithm is better for 8192-bit $P$, the second for 512‑bit $P$. I prefer not digging where exactly the crossover is, or what's the exact difference between NFS and IC.

  • $\begingroup$ ty. So given the Schnorr Group $P = r \cdot q+1$ with $q$ a prime would that mean that NFS is used if the subgroup used is much smaller than $P$? In your $256$-bit-$q$ example the other factor $r$ need to be much bigger than $q$. What would be a use case of this? Wouldn't be $256$-bit safe enough? As safe as a $256$-bit EC? $\endgroup$
    – J. Doe
    Mar 5, 2021 at 16:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @J. Doe: You are correct. With large-enough $P$, 256-bit $q$ is as safe as 256-bit ECC. In fact, Schnoor signature then DSA did just that, before ECDSA and EdDSA. $\endgroup$
    – fgrieu
    Mar 5, 2021 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a reference or a name for the $\mathcal{O}(\sqrt{q}\ln P \ln \ln P)$ algortihm? $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2021 at 17:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @fgrieu so as final conclusion (related to other question ) using a Sophie Germain 256-bit prime in normal discrete logarithm is not as safe as in EC with similar order but not a small embedding. right? $\endgroup$
    – J. Doe
    Mar 5, 2021 at 18:00

The exact cost of the number field sieve algorithm is somewhat fuzzy (the usually quoted complexity is only valid in a log-asymptotic sense). Lenstra and Verheul tried to capture a more usable version of the complexity which has been broadly accepted. For parameter sets of interest the related estimates published by NIST would probably be generally agreed on:

80-bits work: 160-bit $q$, 1024-bit $P$

112-bits work: 224-bit $q$, 2048-bit $P$

128-bits work: 256-bit $q$, 3072-bit $P$

192-bits work: 384-bit $q$, 7680-bit $P$

256-bits work: 512-bit $q$, 15360-bit $P$

  • $\begingroup$ Given that order at which position would be 511-bit $q$ with 512-bit $P$ or 255-bit $q$ with 256-bit $P$? $\endgroup$
    – J. Doe
    Mar 5, 2021 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ For 512-bit $P$ we can quote actual performance figures. The Logjam attack (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logjam_(computer_security)) was able to use the number field sieve to break such a system with a few thousand core weeks. 256-bit $P$ would be even more insecure. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel S
    Mar 5, 2021 at 22:43

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