End-to-End Encrypted Messaging in xx Messenger

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This is a team contributed page

End-to-End Encrypted (E2EE) messaging is a way to securely and privately communicate with connections—only the sender and receiver can read the contents of their messages. While cMix protects your metadata (the who, what, when, and where of your communications), the E2EE between clients on the xx network provides the additional guarantee that no third party can decipher data that is processed and stored. End-to-end encryption keeps your message content private from third parties, including cMix nodes, nodes’ internet service providers, cell phone companies, and any other telecommunications devices or malicious actors on the internet–your data belongs to you, and only you. We call these E2EE links authenticated channels.

In xx messenger, we provide E2EE messaging that is protected against threats from quantum computers. We accomplish this by using a key exchange algorithm that uses post-quantum cryptography combined with a known-secure regular key exchange algorithm, ensuring that an attacker trying to break the protocol must break both to be successful. The xx network uses the Supersingular Isogeny Diffie–Helman (SIDH) algorithm for post-quantum key exchange and the classic Diffie–Helman (DH) algorithm for regular key exchange.

To create an authenticated channel for E2EE messaging, the xx messenger needs the xx contact (public cryptographic identity key) to establish encryption. Users can obtain these keys in one of two ways:

  1. Exchanging QR codes with another user
  2. Looking up another user with the User Discovery search function

After acquiring the other users’ xx contact, the xx messenger sends an authentication request message containing the SIDH and DH public keys needed to initiate the key exchange. The recipient responds with their own SIDH and DH public keys, and the original sender sends a final confirmation message.

After receiving the other user’s SIDH and DH public keys, xx messenger computes the shared SIDH and shared DH secrets. It then combines these secrets with a hash algorithm (BLAKE2B) to form the E2E Session Base Key. This step finalizes the authenticated channel creation–each user can now send E2EE messages.

To provide forward secrecy and post-compromise security, the E2E Session Base Key is periodically re-keyed in a process sometimes known as ratcheting. The sender on each side of the connection controls how often a re-key occurs. To initiate a re-key, the client sends new SIDH and DH public keys using the authenticated channel already in place. When the recipient responds, the sender can generate a new E2E Session Base Key to create a new version of the authenticated channel, which is functionally identical to the previous authenticated channel but a different key. These rekeys require an additional message, so they are only sent on an as-needed basis.

Each message in the xx messenger is encrypted with XChaCha20 symmetric encryption with a keyed hash message authentication code HMAC-SHA256. The key used for encryption is derived from the E2E Session Base Key. In addition, a fingerprint, which only the recipient can use, is included in the message to allow the recipient to look up the same encryption key for that message.

Cryptographic Primitives Summary

Algorithm Length Description
ChaCha20 256 bits Messages and payloads are encrypted by ChaCha20.
BLAKE2B 256 bits Used as part of key generation, key expansion, identity generation, and identification codes. Used to combine Diffie–Helman and SIDH keys after key integration.
SHA256 256 bits Message HMACs
Diffie–Helmen 3072 bits Discrete log-based component of key negotiation.
SIDH 3024 bits Quantum-resistant component of key negotiation.