I am currently renewing an SSL certificate, and I was considering switching to elliptic curves. Per Bernstein and Lange, I know that some curves should not be used but I’m having difficulties selecting the correct ones in OpenSSL:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 | $ openssl ecparam -list_curves secp112r1 : SECG/WTLS curve over a 112 bit prime field secp112r2 : SECG curve over a 112 bit prime field secp128r1 : SECG curve over a 128 bit prime field secp128r2 : SECG curve over a 128 bit prime field secp160k1 : SECG curve over a 160 bit prime field secp160r1 : SECG curve over a 160 bit prime field secp160r2 : SECG/WTLS curve over a 160 bit prime field secp192k1 : SECG curve over a 192 bit prime field secp224k1 : SECG curve over a 224 bit prime field secp224r1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 224 bit prime field secp256k1 : SECG curve over a 256 bit prime field secp384r1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 384 bit prime field secp521r1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 521 bit prime field prime192v1: NIST/X9.62/SECG curve over a 192 bit prime field prime192v2: X9.62 curve over a 192 bit prime field prime192v3: X9.62 curve over a 192 bit prime field prime239v1: X9.62 curve over a 239 bit prime field prime239v2: X9.62 curve over a 239 bit prime field prime239v3: X9.62 curve over a 239 bit prime field prime256v1: X9.62/SECG curve over a 256 bit prime field sect113r1 : SECG curve over a 113 bit binary field sect113r2 : SECG curve over a 113 bit binary field sect131r1 : SECG/WTLS curve over a 131 bit binary field sect131r2 : SECG curve over a 131 bit binary field sect163k1 : NIST/SECG/WTLS curve over a 163 bit binary field sect163r1 : SECG curve over a 163 bit binary field sect163r2 : NIST/SECG curve over a 163 bit binary field sect193r1 : SECG curve over a 193 bit binary field sect193r2 : SECG curve over a 193 bit binary field sect233k1 : NIST/SECG/WTLS curve over a 233 bit binary field sect233r1 : NIST/SECG/WTLS curve over a 233 bit binary field sect239k1 : SECG curve over a 239 bit binary field sect283k1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 283 bit binary field sect283r1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 283 bit binary field sect409k1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 409 bit binary field sect409r1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 409 bit binary field sect571k1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 571 bit binary field sect571r1 : NIST/SECG curve over a 571 bit binary field c2pnb163v1: X9.62 curve over a 163 bit binary field c2pnb163v2: X9.62 curve over a 163 bit binary field c2pnb163v3: X9.62 curve over a 163 bit binary field c2pnb176v1: X9.62 curve over a 176 bit binary field c2tnb191v1: X9.62 curve over a 191 bit binary field c2tnb191v2: X9.62 curve over a 191 bit binary field c2tnb191v3: X9.62 curve over a 191 bit binary field c2pnb208w1: X9.62 curve over a 208 bit binary field c2tnb239v1: X9.62 curve over a 239 bit binary field c2tnb239v2: X9.62 curve over a 239 bit binary field c2tnb239v3: X9.62 curve over a 239 bit binary field c2pnb272w1: X9.62 curve over a 272 bit binary field c2pnb304w1: X9.62 curve over a 304 bit binary field c2tnb359v1: X9.62 curve over a 359 bit binary field c2pnb368w1: X9.62 curve over a 368 bit binary field c2tnb431r1: X9.62 curve over a 431 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls1: WTLS curve over a 113 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls3: NIST/SECG/WTLS curve over a 163 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls4: SECG curve over a 113 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls5: X9.62 curve over a 163 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls6: SECG/WTLS curve over a 112 bit prime field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls7: SECG/WTLS curve over a 160 bit prime field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls8: WTLS curve over a 112 bit prime field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls9: WTLS curve over a 160 bit prime field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls10: NIST/SECG/WTLS curve over a 233 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls11: NIST/SECG/WTLS curve over a 233 bit binary field wap-wsg-idm-ecid-wtls12: WTLS curvs over a 224 bit prime field Oakley-EC2N-3: IPSec/IKE/Oakley curve #3 over a 155 bit binary field. Not suitable for ECDSA. Questionable extension field! Oakley-EC2N-4: IPSec/IKE/Oakley curve #4 over a 185 bit binary field. Not suitable for ECDSA. Questionable extension field! |

Could a kind cryptographer point out to me which curves are still considered safe?

#### Answers

1.

You are misreading Bernstein and Lange’s advice (admittedly, their presentation is a bit misleading, with the scary red “False” tags). What they *mean* is not that some curves are inherently unsafe, but that *safe implementation* of some curves is easier than for others (e.g. with regards to library behaviour when it encounters something which purports to be the encoding of a valid curve point, but is not).

What you really want is a curve such that:

- the software which you will entrust with your private key (your SSL server) is properly implemented and will not leak details about your private key;
- interoperability will be achieved.

For a SSL server certificate, an “elliptic curve” certificate will be used only with digital signatures (ECDSA algorithm). The server will sign only messages that it generates itself; and, in any case, the only “private” operation involving a curve in ECDSA is multiplication of the conventional base point (hardcoded, since it is part of the curve definition, hence correct) by a random value that the server generates. Therefore, in your use case, there is no risk of private key leakage that would be specific to the used curve. If your SSL implementation is poor, it will be poor for all curves, not for just some of them.

“Interoperability” means that you would probably prefer it if SSL clients can actually connect to your server; otherwise, having a SSL server would be rather pointless. This simplifies the question a lot: in practice, average clients only support *two* curves, the ones which are designated in so-called NSA Suite B: these are NIST curves P-256 and P-384 (in OpenSSL, they are designated as, respectively, “prime256v1” and “secp384r1”). If you use any other curve, then some widespread Web browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox…) will be unable to talk to your server.

Use P-256 to minimize trouble. If you feel that your manhood is threatened by using a 256-bit curve where a 384-bit curve is available, then use P-384: it will increases your computational and network costs (a factor of about 3 for CPU, a few extra dozen bytes on the network) but this is likely to be negligible in practice (in a SSL-powered Web server, the heavy cost is in “Web”, not “SSL”).

2.

I’d say stick to secp521r1 – even DJB says P-521 is pretty nice prime, and it’s also supported in every modern crypto library.

In the same time, we should push forward adoption of non-NIST curves like Curve25519, which will be fully rigid, less prone to implementation errors and may become nice alternative for those who need faster solutions than secp521r1.

Refer: https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/78621/which-elliptic-curve-should-i-use

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