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The key schedule of DES ("<<<" denotes a left rotation), showing the calculation of each round key ("Subkey").

In cryptography, the so-called product ciphers are a certain kind of cipher, where the (de-)ciphering of data is typically done as an iteration of rounds. The setup for each round is generally the same, except for round-specific fixed values called a round constant, and round-specific data derived from the cipher key called a round key. A key schedule is an algorithm that calculates all the round keys from the key.

Some types of key schedules

Notes

Knudsen and Mathiassen (2004) give some experimental evidence that indicate that the key schedule plays a part in providing strength against linear and differential cryptanalysis. For toy Feistel ciphers, it was observed that those with complex and well-designed key schedules can reach a uniform distribution for the probabilities of differentials and linear hulls faster than those with poorly designed key schedules.

References