WhatsUpp with Sender Keys? Analysis, Improvements and Security Proofs


Conference / Medium


Daniel Collins David Balbás Phillip Gajland

Research Hub

Research Hub A: Kryptographie der Zukunft

Research Challenges

RC 1: Cryptography against Mass Surveillance
RC 2: Quantum-Resistant Cryptography


Developing end-to-end encrypted instant messaging solutions for group conversations is an ongoing challenge that has garnered significant attention from practitioners and the cryptographic community alike. Notably, industry-leading messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal Messenger have adopted the Sender Keys protocol, where each group member shares their own symmetric encryption key with others. Despite its widespread adoption, Sender Keys has never been formally modelled in the cryptographic literature, raising the following natural question: What can be proven about the security of the Sender Keys protocol, and how can we practically mitigate its shortcomings? In addressing this question, we first introduce a novel security model to suit protocols like Sender Keys, deviating from conventional group key agreement-based abstractions. Our framework allows for a natural integration of two-party messaging within group messaging sessions that may be of independent interest. Leveraging this framework, we conduct the first formal analysis of the Sender Keys protocol, and prove it satisfies a weak notion of security. Towards improving security, we propose a series of efficient modifications to Sender Keys without imposing significant performance overhead. We combine these refinements into a new protocol that we call Sender Keys+, which may be of interest both in theory and practice.


Cryptographic Protocols
Asymmetric Cryptography