|Summary ||An attacker is able to efficiently decrypt data without knowing the decryption key if a target system leaks data on whether or not a padding error happened while decrypting the ciphertext. A target system that leaks this type of information becomes the padding oracle and an attacker is able to make use of that oracle to efficiently decrypt data without knowing the decryption key by issuing on average 128*b calls to the padding oracle (where b is the number of bytes in the ciphertext block). In addition to performing decryption, an attacker is also able to produce valid ciphertexts (i.e., perform encryption) by using the padding oracle, all without knowing the encryption key.
Any cryptosystem can be vulnerable to padding oracle attacks if the encrypted messages are not authenticated to ensure their validity prior to decryption, and then the information about padding error is leaked to the attacker. This attack technique may be used, for instance, to break CAPTCHA systems or decrypt/modify state information stored in client side objects (e.g., hidden fields or cookies).
This attack technique is a side-channel attack on the cryptosystem that uses a data leak from an improperly implemented decryption routine to completely subvert the cryptosystem. The one bit of information that tells the attacker whether a padding error during decryption has occurred, in whatever form it comes, is sufficient for the attacker to break the cryptosystem. That bit of information can come in a form of an explicit error message about a padding error, a returned blank page, or even the server taking longer to respond (a timing attack).