Blowfish is a keyed, symmetric block cipher, designed in 1993 by Bruce Schneier and included in a large number of cipher suites and encryption products. Blowfish provides a good encryption rate in software and no effective cryptanalysis of it has been found to date. However, the Advanced Encryption Standard now receives more attention.
Schneier designed Blowfish as a general-purpose algorithm, intended as an alternative to the aging DES and free of the problems and constraints associated with other algorithms. At the time Blowfish was released, many other designs were proprietary, encumbered by patents or were commercial/government secrets. Schneier has stated that, "Blowfish is unpatented, and will remain so in all countries. The algorithm is hereby placed in the public domain, and can be freely used by anyone."
Notable features of the design include key-dependent S-boxes and a highly complex key schedule.
Blowfish has a 64-bit block size and a variable key length from 32 up to 448 bits. It is a 16-round Feistel cipher and uses large key-dependent S-boxes. It is similar in structure to CAST-128, which uses fixed S-boxes.
The diagram to the left shows the action of Blowfish. Each line represents 32 bits. The algorithm keeps two subkey arrays: the 18-entry P-array and four 256-entry S-boxes. The S-boxes accept 8-bit input and produce 32-bit output. One entry of the P-array is used every round, and after the final round, each half of the data block is XORed with one of the two remaining unused P-entries.
The diagram to the upper right shows Blowfish's F-function. The function splits the 32-bit input into four eight-bit quarters, and uses the quarters as input to the S-boxes. The outputs are added modulo 232 and XORed to produce the final 32-bit output.
Decryption is exactly the same as encryption, except that P1, P2,..., P18 are used in the reverse order. This is not so obvious because xor is commutative and associative. A common mistake is to use inverse order of encryption as decryption algorithm (i.e. first XORing P17 and P18 to the ciphertext block, then using the P-entries in reverse order).
Blowfish's key schedule starts by initializing the P-array and S-boxes with values derived from the hexadecimal digits of pi, which contain no obvious pattern (see nothing up my sleeve number). The secret key is then, byte by byte, cycling the key if necessary, XORed with all the P-entries in order. A 64-bit all-zero block is then encrypted with the algorithm as it stands. The resultant ciphertext replaces P1 and P2. The same ciphertext is then encrypted again with the new subkeys, and P3 and P4 are replaced by the new ciphertext. This continues, replacing the entire P-array and all the S-box entries. In all, the Blowfish encryption algorithm will run 521 times to generate all the subkeys - about 4KB of data is processed.
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