How does the SWEET32 Issue (CVE-2016-2183) affect SafeLogic’s FIPS Modules?
A newly demonstrated attack, SWEET32: Birthday attacks on 64-bit block ciphers in TLS and OpenVPN, shows that a network attacker monitoring an HTTPS session secured by Triple-DES can recover sensitive information. The attack was performed in a lab setting in less than two days by capturing 785 GB of traffic over a single HTTPS connection.
Sounds scary at first. The good news: No action is required by SafeLogic customers for the SWEET32 issue.
My FIPS 140-2 Module is not Broken?
Correct. Triple-DES is a FIPS Approved algorithm and Triple-DES is expected to remain a FIPS Approved algorithm for the foreseeable future. Triple-DES uses 64-bit block sizes which makes it vulnerable to this attack. Cryptographers have long been aware of this type of vulnerability in ciphers designed with small block sizes.
The AES symmetric cipher (also a FIPS Approved algorithm) is not vulnerable to this attack.
What Might NIST Do?
Since a considerable amount of ciphertext needs to be captured to make this attack possible, this is a low security concern for nearly every use of TLS. We anticipate that CMVP (NIST/CSE) may publish future guidance limiting the amount of plaintext that is encrypted using a single Triple-DES key, but we do not expect the CMVP to remove Triple-DES from the list of FIPS Approved algorithms due to this reported attack.
Should I Turn Off Triple-DES to be Safe?
That depends on your company’s security policy for addressing vulnerabilities. The SWEET32 attack does not make Triple-DES itself any less secure than it was yesterday and the method of attack is not new. You may need to continue supporting Triple-DES in order to allow TLS connections that are not able to negotiate use of the AES cipher. (Note that good security practices always negotiate AES at a higher priority than Triple-DES). In short, there is no need to turn off the use of Triple-DES in your application.
What If I Still Have Questions?
Please contact me. I am happy to be a resource to you.
Mark J. Minnoch
 Two-key Triple-DES may only be used for decryption purposes in the FIPS mode of operation. Three-key Triple-DES may be used for encryption and decryption purposes in the FIPS mode of operation.