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Secure Programming Cookbook for C and C++ by Matt Messier, John Viega

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6.4. Choosing a Message Authentication Code

Problem

You need to use a MAC (which yields a tag that can only be computed correctly on a piece of data by an entity with a particular secret key), and you want to understand the important concerns so you can determine which algorithm best suits your needs.

Solution

In most cases, instead of using a standalone MAC, we recommend that you use a dual-use mode that provides both authentication and encryption all at once (such as CWC mode, discussed in Recipe 5.10). Dual-use modes can also be used for authentication when encryption is not required.

If a dual-use mode does not suit your needs, the best solution depends on your particular requirements. In general, HMAC is a popular and well-supported alternative based on hash functions (it’s good for compatibility), and OMAC is a good solution based on a block cipher (which we see as a strong advantage). If you care about maximizing efficiency, a hash127-based MAC is a reasonable solution (though it has some limitations, so CMAC may be better in such cases; see Recipe 6.13 and Recipe 6.14).

We recommend against using RMAC and UMAC, for reasons discussed in the following section.

Discussion

Warning

Do not use the same key for encryption that you use in a MAC. See Recipe 4.11 for how to overcome this restriction.

As with hash functions, there are a large number of available algorithms for performing message authentication, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. Besides algorithms designed explicitly ...

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