Cipher Modes

A block cipher by itself, is only able to securely encrypt a single data block. To be able to securely encrypt data of arbitrary length, a mode of operation applies the block cipher’s single block operation repeatedly to encrypt an entire message.

All cipher mode implementations are are derived from the base class Cipher_Mode, which is declared in botan/cipher_mode.h.


Using an unauthenticted cipher mode without combining it with a Message Authentication Codes (MAC) is insecure. Prefer using an AEAD Mode.

class Cipher_Mode
void set_key(const uint8_t *key, size_t length)

Set the symmetric key to be used.

bool valid_keylength(size_t length) const

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

size_t default_nonce_length() const

Return the default (preferable) nonce size for this cipher mode.

bool valid_nonce_length(size_t nonce_len) const

Return true if nonce_len is a valid length for a nonce with this algorithm.

bool authenticated() const

Return true if this cipher mode is authenticated

size_t tag_size() const

Return the length in bytes of the authentication tag this algorithm generates. If the mode is not authenticated, this will return 0. If the mode is authenticated, it will return some positive value (typically somewhere between 8 and 16).

void clear()

Clear all internal state. The object will act exactly like one which was just allocated.

void reset()

Reset all message state. For example if you called start_msg, then process to process some ciphertext, but then encounter an IO error and must abandon the current message, you can call reset. The object will retain the key (unlike calling clear which also resets the key) but the nonce and current message state will be erased.

void start_msg(const uint8_t *nonce, size_t nonce_len)

Set up for processing a new message. This function must be called with a new random value for each message. For almost all modes (excepting SIV), if the same nonce is ever used twice with the same key, the encryption scheme loses its confidentiality and/or authenticity properties.

void start(const std::vector<uint8_t> nonce)

Acts like start_msg(, nonce.size()).

void start(const uint8_t *nonce, size_t nonce_len)

Acts like start_msg(nonce, nonce_len).

virtual size_t update_granularity() const

The Cipher_Mode interface requires message processing in multiples of the block size. Returns size of required blocks to update. Will return 1 if the mode implementation does not require buffering.

virtual size_t ideal_granularity() const

Returns a multiple of update_granularity sized for ideal performance.

In fact this is not truly the “ideal” buffer size but just reflects the smallest possible buffer that can reasonably take advantage of available parallelism (due to SIMD execution, etc). If you are concerned about performance, it may be advisable to take this return value and scale it to approximately 4 KB, and use buffers of that size.

virtual size_t process(uint8_t *msg, size_t msg_len)

Process msg in place and returns the number of bytes written. msg must be a multiple of update_granularity.

void update(secure_vector<uint8_t> &buffer, size_t offset = 0)

Continue processing a message in the buffer in place. The passed buffer’s size must be a multiple of update_granularity. The first offset bytes of the buffer will be ignored.

size_t minimum_final_size() const

Returns the minimum size needed for finish. This is used for example when processing an AEAD message, to ensure the tag is available. In that case, the encryption side will return 0 (since the tag is generated, rather than being provided) while the decryption mode will return the size of the tag.

void finish(secure_vector<uint8_t> &final_block, size_t offset = 0)

Finalize the message processing with a final block of at least minimum_final_size size. The first offset bytes of the passed final block will be ignored.

Code Example

The following code encrypts the specified plaintext using AES-128/CBC with PKCS#7 padding.


This example ignores the requirement to authenticate the ciphertext


Simply replacing the string “AES-128/CBC/PKCS7” string in the example below with “AES-128/GCM” suffices to use authenticated encryption.

#include <botan/auto_rng.h>
#include <botan/cipher_mode.h>
#include <botan/hex.h>
#include <botan/rng.h>

#include <iostream>

int main() {
   Botan::AutoSeeded_RNG rng;

   const std::string plaintext(
      "Your great-grandfather gave this watch to your granddad for good "
      "luck. Unfortunately, Dane's luck wasn't as good as his old man's.");
   const std::vector<uint8_t> key = Botan::hex_decode("2B7E151628AED2A6ABF7158809CF4F3C");

   const auto enc = Botan::Cipher_Mode::create_or_throw("AES-128/CBC/PKCS7", Botan::Cipher_Dir::Encryption);

   // generate fresh nonce (IV)
   Botan::secure_vector<uint8_t> iv = rng.random_vec(enc->default_nonce_length());

   // Copy input data to a buffer that will be encrypted
   Botan::secure_vector<uint8_t> pt(, + plaintext.length());


   std::cout << enc->name() << " with iv " << Botan::hex_encode(iv) << " " << Botan::hex_encode(pt) << '\n';
   return 0;

Available Unauthenticated Cipher Modes


CTR and OFB modes are also implemented, but these are treated as Stream_Ciphers instead.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_MODE_CBC is defined.

CBC requires the plaintext be padded using a reversible rule. The following padding schemes are implemented

PKCS#7 (RFC5652)

The last byte in the padded block defines the padding length p, the remaining padding bytes are set to p as well.

ANSI X9.23

The last byte in the padded block defines the padding length, the remaining padding is filled with 0x00.

OneAndZeros (ISO/IEC 7816-4)

The first padding byte is set to 0x80, the remaining padding bytes are set to 0x00.

ESP (RFC 4303)

The first padding byte is set to 0x01, the next ones to 0x02, 0x03, … (monotonically increasing sequence).

Ciphertext stealing (CTS) is also implemented. This scheme allows the ciphertext to have the same length as the plaintext, however using CTS requires the input be at least one full block plus one byte. It is also less commonly implemented.


Using CBC with padding without an authentication mode exposes your application to CBC padding oracle attacks, which allow recovering the plaintext of arbitrary messages. Always pair CBC with a MAC such as HMAC (or, preferably, use an AEAD such as GCM).

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/CBC/<optional padding scheme> (reported name) / CBC(<BlockCipher>,<optional padding scheme>)

  • Available padding schemes:

    • NoPadding

    • PKCS7 (default)

    • OneAndZeros

    • X9.23

    • ESP

    • CTS

  • Examples: AES-128/CBC/PKCS7, AES-256/CBC


Available if BOTAN_HAS_MODE_CFB is defined.

CFB uses a block cipher to create a self-synchronizing stream cipher. It is used for example in the OpenPGP protocol. There is no reason to prefer it, as it has worse performance characteristics than modes such as CTR or CBC.

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/CFB(<optional feedback bits>) (reported name) / CFB(<BlockCipher>,<optional feedback bits>)

  • Feedback bits defaults to the size of the underlying block cipher.

  • Examples: AES-192/CFB, AES-128/CFB(8)


Available if BOTAN_HAS_MODE_XTS is defined.

XTS is a mode specialized for encrypting disk or database storage where ciphertext expansion is not possible. XTS requires all inputs be at least one full block (16 bytes for AES), however for any acceptable input length, there is no ciphertext expansion.

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/XTS (reported name) / XTS(<BlockCipher>), e.g. AES-256/XTS


AEAD (Authenticated Encryption with Associated Data) modes provide message encryption, message authentication, and the ability to authenticate additional data that is not included in the ciphertext (such as a sequence number or header). It is a subclass of Cipher_Mode.

class AEAD_Mode
void set_key(const SymmetricKey &key)

Set the key

Key_Length_Specification key_spec() const

Return the key length specification

void set_associated_data(const uint8_t ad[], size_t ad_len)

Set any associated data for this message. For maximum portability between different modes, this must be called after set_key and before start.

If the associated data does not change, it is not necessary to call this function more than once, even across multiple calls to start and finish.

void start(const uint8_t nonce[], size_t nonce_len)

Start processing a message, using nonce as the unique per-message value. It does not need to be random, simply unique (per key).


With almost all AEADs, if the same nonce is ever used to encrypt two different messages under the same key, all security is lost. If reliably generating unique nonces is difficult in your environment, use SIV mode which retains security even if nonces are repeated.

void update(secure_vector<uint8_t> &buffer, size_t offset = 0)

Continue processing a message. The buffer is an in/out parameter and may be resized. In particular, some modes require that all input be consumed before any output is produced; with these modes, buffer will be returned empty.

On input, the buffer must be sized in blocks of size update_granularity. For instance if the update granularity was 64, then buffer could be 64, 128, 192, … bytes.

The first offset bytes of buffer will be ignored (this allows in place processing of a buffer that contains an initial plaintext header)

void finish(secure_vector<uint8_t> &buffer, size_t offset = 0)

Complete processing a message with a final input of buffer, which is treated the same as with update. It must contain at least final_minimum_size bytes.

Note that if you have the entire message in hand, calling finish without ever calling update is both efficient and convenient.


During decryption, if the supplied authentication tag does not validate, finish will throw an instance of Invalid_Authentication_Tag (aka Integrity_Failure, which was the name for this exception in versions before 2.10, a typedef is included for compatability).

If this occurs, all plaintext previously output via calls to update must be destroyed and not used in any way that an attacker could observe the effects of. This could be anything from echoing the plaintext back (perhaps in an error message), or by making an external RPC whose destination or contents depend on the plaintext. The only thing you can do is buffer it, and in the event of an invalid tag, erase the previously decrypted content from memory.

One simply way to assure this could never happen is to never call update, and instead always marshal the entire message into a single buffer and call finish on it when decrypting.

size_t update_granularity() const

The AEAD interface requires update be called with blocks of this size. This will be 1, if the mode can process any length inputs.

size_t final_minimum_size() const

The AEAD interface requires finish be called with at least this many bytes (which may be zero, or greater than update_granularity)

bool valid_nonce_length(size_t nonce_len) const

Returns true if nonce_len is a valid nonce length for this scheme. For EAX and GCM, any length nonces are allowed. OCB allows any value between 8 and 15 bytes.

size_t default_nonce_length() const

Returns a reasonable length for the nonce, typically either 96 bits, or the only supported length for modes which don’t support 96 bit nonces.

Available AEAD Modes

If in doubt about what to use, pick ChaCha20Poly1305, AES-256/GCM, or AES-256/SIV. Both ChaCha20Poly1305 and AES with GCM are widely implemented. SIV is somewhat more obscure (and is slower than either GCM or ChaCha20Poly1305), but has excellent security properties.


Available if BOTAN_HAS_AEAD_CCM is defined.

A composition of CTR mode and CBC-MAC. Requires a 128-bit block cipher. This is a NIST standard mode, but that is about all to recommend it. Prefer EAX.

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/CCM(<optional tag size>,<optional L>) (reported name) / CCM(<BlockCipher>,<optional tag size>,<optional L>)

  • Tag size defaults to 16.

  • L defaults to 3.

  • Examples: AES-128/CCM, AES-128/CCM(8), AES-128/CCM(8,2)


Available if BOTAN_HAS_AEAD_CHACHA20_POLY1305 is defined.

Unlike the other AEADs which are based on block ciphers, this mode is based on the ChaCha stream cipher and the Poly1305 authentication code. It is very fast on all modern platforms.

ChaCha20Poly1305 supports 64-bit, 96-bit, and (since 2.8) 192-bit nonces. 64-bit nonces are the “classic” ChaCha20Poly1305 design. 96-bit nonces are used by the IETF standard version of ChaCha20Poly1305. And 192-bit nonces is the XChaCha20Poly1305 construction, which is somewhat less common.

For best interop use the IETF version with 96-bit nonces. However 96 bits is small enough that it can be dangerous to generate nonces randomly if more than ~ 2^32 messages are encrypted under a single key, since if a nonce is ever reused ChaCha20Poly1305 becomes insecure. It is better to use a counter for the nonce in this case.

If you are encrypting many messages under a single key and cannot maintain a counter for the nonce, prefer XChaCha20Poly1305 since a 192 bit nonce is large enough that randomly chosen nonces are extremely unlikely to repeat.

Algorithm specification name: ChaCha20Poly1305


Available if BOTAN_HAS_AEAD_EAX is defined.

A secure composition of CTR mode and CMAC. Supports 128-bit, 256-bit and 512-bit block ciphers.

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/EAX(<optional tag size>) / EAX(<BlockCipher>,<optional tag size>)

  • Tag size defaults to 16.

  • Reports name as <BlockCipher>/EAX, i.e. without the tag size.

  • Examples: e.g. AES-128/EAX, AES-128/EAX(8)


Available if BOTAN_HAS_AEAD_GCM is defined.

NIST standard, commonly used. Requires a 128-bit block cipher. Fairly slow, unless hardware support for carryless multiplies is available.

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/GCM(<optional tag size>) (reported name) / GCM(<BlockCipher>,<optional tag size>)

  • Tag size defaults to 16.

  • Examples: e.g. AES-128/GCM, AES-128/GCM(12)


Available if BOTAN_HAS_AEAD_OCB is defined.

A block cipher based AEAD. Supports 128-bit, 256-bit and 512-bit block ciphers. This mode is very fast and easily secured against side channels. Adoption has been poor because until 2021 it was patented in the United States. The patent was allowed to lapse in early 2021.

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/OCB(<optional tag size>) / OCB(<BlockCipher>,<optional tag size>)

  • Tag size defaults to 16.

  • Reports name as <BlockCipher>/OCB, i.e. without the tag size.

  • Examples: e.g. AES-128/OCB, AES-128/OCB(12)


Available if BOTAN_HAS_AEAD_SIV is defined.

Requires a 128-bit block cipher. Unlike other AEADs, SIV is “misuse resistant”; if a nonce is repeated, SIV retains security, with the exception that if the same nonce is used to encrypt the same message multiple times, an attacker can detect the fact that the message was duplicated (this is simply because if both the nonce and the message are reused, SIV will output identical ciphertexts).

Algorithm specification name: <BlockCipher>/SIV (reported name) / SIV(<BlockCipher>), e.g. AES-128/SIV