We consider several “provably secure” hash functions that compute simple sums in a well chosen group (G, ?). Security properties of such functions provably translate in a natural way to computational problems in G
that are simple to define and possibly also hard to solve. Given k disjoint lists Li of group elements, the k-sum problem asks for gi ? Li such that
g1 ? g2 ? . . . ? gk = 1G. Hardness of the problem in the respective groups follows from some “standard” assumptions used in public-key cryptology such
as hardness of integer factoring, discrete logarithms, lattice reduction and syndrome decoding. We point out evidence that the k-sum problem may even be harder than the above problems.

Two hash functions based on the group k-sum problem, SWIFFTX and FSB, were submitted to NIST as candidates for the future SHA-3 standard. Both submissions were supported by some sort of a security proof. We show
that the assessment of security levels provided in the proposals is not related to the proofs included. The main claims on security are supported exclusively
by considerations about available attacks. By introducing “second-order” bounds on bounds on security, we expose the limits of such an approach to
provable security.

A problem with the way security is quantified does not necessarily mean a problem with security itself. Although FSB does have a history of failures,
recent versions of the two above functions have resisted cryptanalytic efforts well. This evidence, as well as the several connections to more standard
problems, suggests that the k-sum problem in some groups may be considered hard on its own and possibly lead to provable bounds on security. Complexity of the non-trivial tree algorithm is becoming a standard tool for measuring the associated hardness.

We propose modifications to the multiplicative Very Smooth Hash and derive security from multiplicative k-sums in contrast to the original reductions that related to factoring or discrete logarithms. Although the original reductions remain valid, we measure security in a new, more aggressive way.
This allows us to relax the parameters and hash faster. We obtain a function that is only three times slower compared to SHA-256 and is estimated to offer at least equivalent collision resistance. The speed can be doubled by the use of a special modulus, such a modified function is supported exclusively by the hardness of multiplicative k-sums modulo a power of two.

Our efforts culminate in a new multiplicative k-sum function in finite fields that further generalizes the design of Very Smooth Hash. In contrast to the previous variants, the memory requirements of the new function are negligible. The fastest instance of the function expected to offer 128-bit collision resistance runs at 24 cycles per byte on an Intel Core i7 processor and approaches the 17.4 figure of SHA-256.

The new functions proposed in this thesis do not provably achieve a usual security property such as preimage or collision resistance from a well-
established assumption. They do however enjoy unconditional provable separation of inputs that collide. Changes in input that are small with respect
to a well defined measure never lead to identical output in the compression function.