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A chosen-plaintext attack (CPA) is an attack model for cryptanalysis which presumes that the attacker has the capability to choose arbitrary plaintexts to be encrypted and obtain the corresponding ciphertexts. The goal of the attack is to gain some further information which reduces the security of the encryption scheme. In the worst case, a chosen-plaintext attack could reveal the scheme's secret key. For some chosen-plaintext attacks, only a small part of the plaintext needs to be chosen by the attacker: such attacks are known as plaintext injection attacks.
This appears, at first glance, to be an unrealistic model; it would certainly be unlikely that an attacker could persuade a human cryptographer to encrypt large amounts of plaintexts of the attacker's choosing. Modern cryptography, on the other hand, is implemented in software or hardware and is used for a diverse range of applications; for many cases, a chosen-plaintext attack is often very feasible. Chosen-plaintext attacks become extremely important in the context of public key cryptography, where the encryption key is public and attackers can encrypt any plaintext they choose.
Any cipher that can prevent chosen-plaintext attacks is then also guaranteed to be secure against known-plaintext and ciphertext-only attacks; this is a conservative approach to security.
Two forms of chosen-plaintext attack can be distinguished:
- Batch chosen-plaintext attack, where the cryptanalyst chooses all plaintexts before any of them are encrypted. This is often the meaning of an unqualified use of "chosen-plaintext attack".
- Adaptive chosen-plaintext attack, where the cryptanalyst makes a series of interactive queries, choosing subsequent plaintexts based on the information from the previous encryptions.
- Known-plaintext attack
- Chosen-ciphertext attack
- Adaptive chosen-ciphertext attack
- Related-key attack
- Ross Anderson, Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems. The first edition (2001): http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/book.html