EC weirdness

Adam Petcher adam.petcher at
Mon Jul 16 20:42:29 UTC 2018

I think the reason for the hard-coded curves is largely historical, and 
I don't know of a security-related reason for it (other than the 
prevention of insecure parameters). Though it has the additional benefit 
that it simplifies the interface a lot, because the implementation for a 
curve is not completely determined by the domain parameters. The 
implementation may also need to know which optimized finite field 
implementation, precomputed tables, etc to use. Looking up all of these 
things at once can be a lot simpler than trying to specify them over an 

I'm trying to figure out if your problem motivates support for arbitrary 
base points, or if there is another way to get what you want. Is the 
base point a secret in your scheme? Either way, can you implement your 
scheme using KeyAgreement (e.g. using the "base point" as the public key 
and a random integer as the private key)? What if ECDH KeyAgreement 
supported three-party Diffie-Hellman, or you extract a point from 
generateSecret()? Would that help?

On 7/13/2018 9:30 PM, Michael StJohns wrote:
> Hi -
> Every so often I run into some rather strange things in the way the 
> Sun EC classes were built.  Most recently, I was trying to use the 
> SunEC provider to do a PACE like protocol.  Basically, the idea was to 
> be able to generate public key points on the P-256 curve, but with a 
> different base point G (knowledge of G' or having a public key 
> generated from G' would allow you to do a valid ECDH operation, keys 
> with disjoint points would not).
> I was able to generate a normal key pair using ECGenParameterSpec with 
> a name, so I grabbed the ECParameterSpec from the public key, made a 
> copy of most of the stuff (curve, cofactor), but substituted the 
> public point W from the key pair I'd just generated, and passed that 
> in as G to the new parameter spec.  I tried to initialize the KPG with 
> my *almost* P-256 spec, and it failed with "unsupported curve".
> Looking into the code and tracing through 
> to the native code, I'm once again 
> surprised that all of the curves are hard coded into the C native 
> code, rather than being passed in as data from the Java code.
> Is there a good security reason for hard coding the curves at the C 
> level that I'm missing?
> This comes under the heading of unexpected behavior rather than a bug 
> per se I think.   Although - I'd *really* like to be able to pass a 
> valid ECParameterSpec in to the generation process and get whatever 
> keys are appropriate for that curve and base point.
> Later, Mike

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