Block Ciphers

Block ciphers are a n-bit permutation for some small n, typically 64 or 128 bits. They are a cryptographic primitive used to generate higher level operations such as authenticated encryption.


In almost all cases, a bare block cipher is not what you should be using. You probably want an authenticated cipher mode instead (see Cipher Modes) This interface is used to build higher level operations (such as cipher modes or MACs), or in the very rare situation where ECB is required, eg for compatibility with an existing system.

class BlockCipher
static std::unique_ptr<BlockCipher> create(const std::string &algo_spec, const std::string &provider = "")

Create a new block cipher object, or else return null.

static std::unique_ptr<BlockCipher> create_or_throw(const std::string &algo_spec, const std::string &provider = "")

Like create, except instead of returning null an exception is thrown if the cipher is not known.

void set_key(const uint8_t *key, size_t length)

This sets the key to the value specified. Most algorithms only accept keys of certain lengths. If you attempt to call set_key with a key length that is not supported, the exception Invalid_Key_Length will be thrown.

In all cases, set_key must be called on an object before any data processing (encryption, decryption, etc) is done by that object. If this is not done, an exception will be thrown. thrown.

bool valid_keylength(size_t length) const

This function returns true if and only if length is a valid keylength for this algorithm.

size_t minimum_keylength() const

Return the smallest key length (in bytes) that is acceptable for the algorithm.

size_t maximum_keylength() const

Return the largest key length (in bytes) that is acceptable for the algorithm.

std::string name() const

Return a human readable name for this algorithm. This is guaranteed to round-trip with create and create_or_throw calls, ie create(“Foo”)->name() == “Foo”

void clear()

Zero out the key. The key must be reset before the cipher object can be used.

BlockCipher *clone() const

Return a newly allocated BlockCipher object of the same type as this one.

size_t block_size() const

Return the size (in bytes) of the cipher.

size_t parallelism() const

Return the parallelism underlying this implementation of the cipher. This value can vary across versions and machines. A return value of N means that encrypting or decrypting with N blocks can operate in parallel.

size_t parallel_bytes() const

Returns parallelism multiplied by the block size as well as a small fudge factor. That’s because even ciphers that have no implicit parallelism typically see a small speedup for being called with several blocks due to caching effects.

std::string provider() const

Return the provider type. Default value is “base” but can be any arbitrary string. Other example values are “sse2”, “avx2”, “openssl”.

void encrypt_n(const uint8_t in[], uint8_t out[], size_t blocks) const

Encrypt blocks blocks of data, taking the input from the array in and placing the ciphertext into out. The two pointers may be identical, but should not overlap ranges.

void decrypt_n(const uint8_t in[], uint8_t out[], size_t blocks) const

Decrypt blocks blocks of data, taking the input from the array in and placing the plaintext into out. The two pointers may be identical, but should not overlap ranges.

void encrypt(const uint8_t in[], uint8_t out[]) const

Encrypt a single block. Equivalent to encrypt_n(in, out, 1).

void encrypt(uint8_t block[]) const

Encrypt a single block. Equivalent to encrypt_n(block, block, 1)

void decrypt(const uint8_t in[], uint8_t out[]) const

Decrypt a single block. Equivalent to decrypt_n(in, out, 1)

void decrypt(uint8_t block[]) const

Decrypt a single block. Equivalent to decrypt_n(block, block, 1)

template<typename Alloc>
void encrypt(std::vector<uint8_t, Alloc> &block) const

Assumes block is of a multiple of the block size.

template<typename Alloc>
void decrypt(std::vector<uint8_t, Alloc> &block) const

Assumes block is of a multiple of the block size.

Code Example

For sheer demonstrative purposes, the following code encrypts a provided single block of plaintext with AES-256 using two different keys.

#include <botan/block_cipher.h>
#include <botan/hex.h>
#include <iostream>
int main ()
   std::vector<uint8_t> key = Botan::hex_decode("000102030405060708090A0B0C0D0E0F101112131415161718191A1B1C1D1E1F");
   std::vector<uint8_t> block = Botan::hex_decode("00112233445566778899AABBCCDDEEFF");
   std::unique_ptr<Botan::BlockCipher> cipher(Botan::BlockCipher::create("AES-256"));
   std::cout << std::endl <<cipher->name() << "single block encrypt: " << Botan::hex_encode(block);

   //clear cipher for 2nd encryption with other key
   key = Botan::hex_decode("1337133713371337133713371337133713371337133713371337133713371337");

   std::cout << std::endl << cipher->name() << "single block encrypt: " << Botan::hex_encode(block);
   return 0;

Available Ciphers

Botan includes a number of block ciphers that are specific to particular countries, as well as a few that are included mostly due to their use in specific protocols such as PGP but not widely used elsewhere. If you are developing new code and have no particular opinion, use AES-256. If you desire an alternative to AES, consider Serpent, SHACAL2 or Threefish.


Avoid any 64-bit block cipher in new designs. There are combinatoric issues that affect any 64-bit cipher that render it insecure when large amounts of data are processed.


Comes in three variants, AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256.

The standard 128-bit block cipher. Many modern platforms offer hardware acceleration. However, on platforms without hardware support, AES implementations typically are vulnerable to side channel attacks. For x86 systems with SSSE3 but without AES-NI, Botan has an implementation which avoids known side channels.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_AES is defined.


South Korean cipher used in industry there. No reason to use it otherwise.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_ARIA is defined.


A 64-bit cipher popular in the pre-AES era. Very slow key setup. Also used (with bcrypt) for password hashing.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_BLOWFISH is defined.


A 64-bit cipher, commonly used in OpenPGP.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_CAST128 is defined.


A 128-bit cipher that was a contestant in the NIST AES competition. Almost never used in practice. Prefer AES or Serpent.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_CAST256 is defined.


Support for CAST-256 is deprecated and will be removed in a future major release.


Comes in three variants, Camellia-128, Camellia-192, and Camellia-256.

A Japanese design standardized by ISO, NESSIE and CRYPTREC. Rarely used outside of Japan.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_CAMELLIA is defined.


Creates a block cipher cascade, where each block is encrypted by two ciphers with independent keys. Useful if you’re very paranoid. In practice any single good cipher (such as Serpent, SHACAL2, or AES-256) is more than sufficient.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_CASCADE is defined.


Originally designed by IBM and NSA in the 1970s. Today, DES’s 56-bit key renders it insecure to any well-resourced attacker. DESX and 3DES extend the key length, and are still thought to be secure, modulo the limitation of a 64-bit block. All are somewhat common in some industries such as finance. Avoid in new code.


Support for DESX is deprecated and it will be removed in a future major release.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_DES is defined.


Aka “Magma”. An old 64-bit Russian cipher. Possible security issues, avoid unless compatibility is needed.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_GOST_28147_89 is defined.


Support for this cipher is deprecated and will be removed in a future major release.


An older but still unbroken 64-bit cipher with a 128-bit key. Somewhat common due to its use in PGP. Avoid in new designs.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_IDEA is defined.


A 64-bit cipher used in 3GPP mobile phone protocols. There is no reason to use it outside of this context.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_KASUMI is defined.


Support for Kasumi is deprecated and will be removed in a future major release.


A “block cipher construction” which can encrypt blocks of nearly arbitrary length. Built from a stream cipher and a hash function. Useful in certain protocols where being able to encrypt large or arbitrary length blocks is necessary.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_LION is defined.


A 64-bit Japanese cipher standardized by NESSIE and ISO. Seemingly secure, but quite slow and saw little adoption. No reason to use it in new code.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_MISTY1 is defined.


Support for MISTY1 is deprecated and will be removed in a future major release.


A fast 128-bit cipher by the designers of AES. Easily secured against side channels.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_NOEKEON is defined.


A older South Korean cipher, widely used in industry there. No reason to choose it otherwise.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_SEED is defined.


The 256-bit block cipher used inside SHA-256. Accepts up to a 512-bit key. Fast, especially when SIMD or SHA-2 acceleration instructions are available. Standardized by NESSIE but otherwise obscure.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_SHACAL2 is defined.


A 128-bit Chinese national cipher, required for use in certain commercial applications in China. Quite slow. Probably no reason to use it outside of legal requirements.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_SM4 is defined.


An AES contender. Widely considered the most conservative design. Fairly slow unless SIMD instructions are available.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_SERPENT is defined.


A 512-bit tweakable block cipher that was used in the Skein hash function. Very fast on 64-bit processors.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_THREEFISH_512 is defined.


A 128-bit block cipher that was one of the AES finalists. Has a somewhat complicated key setup and a “kitchen sink” design.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_TWOFISH is defined.


A 64-bit cipher popular for its simple implementation. Avoid in new code.

Available if BOTAN_HAS_XTEA is defined.