Sample Extraction from RLWE to LWE

In this article I’ll derive a trick used in FHE called sample extraction. In brief, it allows one to partially convert a ciphertext in the Ring Learning With Errors (RLWE) scheme to the Learning With Errors (LWE) scheme.

Here are some other articles I’ve written about other FHE building blocks, though they are not prerequisites for this article.


The first two articles in the list above define the Learning With Errors problem (LWE). I will repeat the definition here:

LWE: The LWE encryption scheme has the following parameters:

  • A plaintext space $ \mathbb{Z}/q\mathbb{Z}$, where $ q \geq 2$ is a positive integer. This is the space that the underlying message $m$ comes from.
  • An LWE dimension $ n \in \mathbb{N}$.
  • A discrete Gaussian error distribution $ D$ with a mean of zero and a fixed standard deviation.

An LWE secret key is defined as a vector $s \in \{0, 1\}^n$ (uniformly sampled). An LWE ciphertext is defined as a vector $ a = (a_1, \dots, a_n)$, sampled uniformly over $ (\mathbb{Z} / q\mathbb{Z})^n$, and a scalar $ b = \langle a, s \rangle + m + e$, where $m$ is the message, $e$ is drawn from $D$ and all arithmetic is done modulo $q$. Note: the message $m$ usually is represented by placing an even smaller message (say, a 4-bit message) in the highest-order bits of a 32-bit unsigned integer. So then decryption corresponds to computing $b – \langle a, s \rangle = m + e$ and rounding the result to recover $m$ while discarding $e$.

Without the error term, an attacker could determine the secret key from a polynomial-sized collection of LWE ciphertexts with something like Gaussian elimination. The set of samples looks like a linear (or affine) system, where the secret key entries are the unknown variables. With an error term, the problem of solving the system is believed to be hard, and only exponential time/space algorithms are known.

RLWE: The Ring Learning With Errors (RLWE) problem is the natural analogue of LWE, where all scalars involved are replaced with polynomials over a (carefully) chosen ring.

Formally, the RLWE encryption scheme has the following parameters:

  • A ring $R = \mathbb{Z}/q\mathbb{Z}$, where $ q \geq 2$ is a positive integer. This is the space of coefficients of all polynomials in the scheme. I usually think of $q$ as $2^{32}$, i.e., unsigned 32-bit integers.
  • A plaintext space $R[x] / (x^N + 1)$, where $N$ is a power of 2. This is the space that the underlying message $m(x)$ comes from, and it is encoded as a list of $N$ integers forming the coefficients of the polynomial.
  • An RLWE dimension $n \in \mathbb{N}$.
  • A discrete Gaussian error distribution $D$ with a mean of zero and a fixed standard deviation.

An RLWE secret key $s$ is defined as a list of $n$ polynomials with binary coefficients in $\mathbb{B}[x] / (x^N+1)$, where $\mathbb{B} = \{0, 1\}$. The coefficients are uniformly sampled, like in LWE. An RLWE ciphertext is defined as a vector of $n$ polynomials $a = (a_1(x), \dots, a_n(x))$, sampled uniformly over $(R[x] / (x^N+1))^n$, and a polynomial $b(x) = \langle a, s \rangle + m(x) + e(x)$, where $m(x)$ is the message (with a similar “store it in the top bits” trick as LWE), $e(x)$ is a polynomial with coefficients drawn from $D$ and all the products of the inner product are done in $R[x] / (x^N+1)$. Decryption in RLWE involves computing $b(x) – \langle a, s \rangle$ and rounding appropriately to recover $m(x)$. Just like with RLWE, the message is “hidden” in the noise added to an equation corresponding to the polynomial products (i.e., without the noise and with enough sample encryptions of the same message/secret key, you can solve the system and recover the message). For more notes on how polynomial multiplication ends up being tricker in this ring, see my negacyclic polynomial multiplication article.

The most common version of RLWE you will see in the literature sets the vector dimension $n=1$, and so the secret key $s$ is a single polynomial, the ciphertext is a single polynomial, and RLWE can be viewed as directly replacing the vector dot product in LWE with a polynomial product. However, making $n$ larger is believed to provide more security, and it can be traded off against making the polynomial degree smaller, which can be useful when tweaking parameters for performance (keeping the security level constant).

Sample Extraction

Sample extraction is the trick of taking an RLWE encryption of $m(x) = m_0 + m_1(x) + \dots + m_{N-1}x^{N-1}$, and outputting an LWE encryption of $m_0$. In our case, the degree $N$ and the dimension $n_{\textup{RLWE}}$ of the input RLWE ciphertext scheme is fixed, but we may pick the dimension $n_{\textup{LWE}}$ of the LWE scheme as we choose to make this trick work.

This is one of those times in math when it is best to “just work it out with a pencil.” It turns out there are no serious obstacles to our goal. We start with polynomials $a = (a_1(x), \dots, a_n(x))$ and $b(x) = \langle a, s \rangle + m(x) + e(x)$, and we want to produce a vector of scalars $(x_1, \dots, x_D)$ of some dimension $D$, a corresponding secret key $s$, and a $b = \langle a, s \rangle + m_0 + e’$, where $e’$ may be different from the input error $e(x)$, but is hopefully not too much larger.

As with many of the articles in this series, we employ the so-called “phase function” to help with the analysis, which is just the partial decryption of an RLWE ciphertext without the rounding step: $\varphi(x) = b(x) – \langle a, s \rangle = m(x) + e(x)$. The idea is as follows: inspect the structure of the constant term of $\varphi(x)$, oh look, it’s an LWE encryption.

So let’s expand the constant term of $b(x) – \langle a, s \rangle$. Given a polynomial expression, I will use the notation $(-)[0]$ to denote the constant coefficient, and $(-)[k]$ for the $k$-th coefficient.

$$ \begin{aligned}(b(x) – \langle a, s \rangle)[0] &= b[0] – \left ( (a_1s_1)[0] + \dots + (a_n s_n)[0] \right ) \end{aligned}$$

Each entry in the dot product is a negacyclic polynomial product, so its constant term requires summing all the pairs of coefficients of $a_i$ and $s_i$ whose degrees sum to zero mod $N$, and flipping signs when there’s wraparound. In particular, a single product above for $a_i s_i$ has the form:

$$(a_is_i) [0] = s_i[0]a_i[0] – s_i[1]a_i[N-1] – s_i[2]a_i[N-2] – \dots – s_i[N-1]a_i[1]$$

Notice that I wrote the coefficients of $s_i$ in increasing order. This was on purpose, because if we re-write this expression $(a_is_i)[0]$ as a dot product, we get

$$(a_is_i[0]) = \left \langle (s_i[0], s_i[1], \dots, s_i[N-1]), (a_i[0], -a_i[N-1], \dots, -a_i[1])\right \rangle$$

In particular, the $a_i[k]$ are public, so we can sign-flip and reorder them easily in our conversion trick. But $s_i$ is unknown at the time the sample extraction needs to occur, so it helps if we can leave the secret key untouched. And indeed, when we apply the above expansion to all of the terms in the computation of $\varphi(x)[0]$, we end up manipulating the $a_i$’s a lot, but merely “flattening” the coefficients of $s = (s_1(x), \dots, s_n(x))$ into a single long vector.

So combining all of the above products, we see that $(b(x) – \langle a, s \rangle)[0]$ is already an LWE encryption with $(x, y) = ((x_1, \dots, x_D), b[0])$, and $x$ being the very long ($D = n*N$) vector

$$\begin{aligned} x = (& a_0[0], -a_0[N-1], \dots, -a_0[1], \\ &a_1[0], -a_1[N-1], \dots, -a_1[1], \\ &\dots , \\ &a_n[0], -a_n[N-1], \dots, -a_n[1] ) \end{aligned}$$

And the corresponding secret key is

$$\begin{aligned} s_{\textup{LWE}} = (& (s_0[0], s_0[1], \dots, s_0[N-1] \\ &(s_1[0], s_1[1], \dots, s_1[N-1], \\ &\dots , \\ &s_n[0], s_n[1], \dots, s_n[N-1] ) \end{aligned}$$

And the error in this ciphertext is exactly the constant coefficient of the error polynomial $e(x)$ from the RLWE encryption, which is independent of the error of all the other coefficients.


This trick is a best case scenario. Unlike with key switching, we don’t need to encrypt the output LWE secret key to perform the conversion. And unlike modulus switching, there is no impact on the error growth in the conversion from RLWE to LWE. So in a sense, this trick is “perfect,” though it loses information about the other coefficients of $m(x)$ in the process. As it happens, the CGGI FHE scheme that these articles are building toward only uses the constant coefficient.

The only twist to think about is that the output LWE ciphertext is dependent on the RLWE scheme parameters. What if you wanted to get a smaller-dimensional LWE ciphertext as output? This is a realistic concern, as in the CGGI FHE scheme one starts from an LWE ciphertext of one dimension, goes to RLWE of another (larger) dimension, and needs to get back to LWE of the original dimension by the end.

To do this, you have two options: one is to pick the RLWE ciphertext parameters $n, N$, so that their product is the value you need. A second is to allow the RLWE parameters to be whatever you need for performance/security, and then employ a key switching operation after the sample extraction to get back to the LWE parameters you need.

It is worth mentioning—though I am far from fully understanding the methods—there other ways to convert between LWE and RLWE. One can go from LWE to RLWE, or from a collection of LWEs to RLWE. Some methods can be found in this paper and its references.

Until next time!

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