VIA PadLock—Wicked Fast Encryption

This inexpensive processor offers support for the Advanced Encryption Standard, so you can do state-of-the-art encryption at wire speed.

To use PadLock in your own programs, you either can call the instruction by name—for example, xcryptcbc—or write its hexadecimal form directly:

.byte 0xf3,0x0f,0xa7,0xd0

For backward compatibility with older development tools, it is safer to use the opcode form. Binutils versions 2.15 and newer, however, already understand the symbolic names where appropriate, for example, in gas (GNU assembler) or objdump programs. The binutils' BFD-library responsible among other things for instruction-level operations also is used in the GNU debugger gdb. A sample instruction dump of an encryption function may be as simple as:

(gdb) x/3i $pc
0x8048392 <demo1+14>:    lea    0x80495f0,%edx
0x8048398 <demo1+20>:    repz xcryptecb
0x804839c <demo1+24>:    push   %eax

As you might have guessed, SUSE Linux 9.2 has PadLock patches in all the appropriate packages, and you can enjoy PadLock support out of the box. If your distribution does not have these patches, check out my Linux PadLock home page in Resources for the available patches.

Programming PadLock

In the following sections, I describe some guidelines for programming PadLock, including details of xcryptcbc. I also explain how to set up PadLock for encrypting a buffer of data with the AES algorithm and a key length of 128bits in CBC mode. All other instructions of the xcrypt group are used in exactly the same way. Other PadLock functions apply similar rules.


xcryptcbc does not have any explicit operands. Instead, every register has a given, fixed function:

  • ESI—source address.

  • EDI—destination address.

  • EAX—initialization vector address.

  • EBX—cipher key address.

  • ECX—number of blocks for processing.

  • EDX—control word address.

Unless written otherwise, all addresses must be aligned at 16-byte boundaries.

ESI/EDI—Addresses of the Source/Destination Data

Both source and destination addresses can be the same, so it is possible to encrypt in place. The size of the destination buffer must be at least the size of the source one. Both must be a multiple of the block size, 16 bytes. Under some circumstances, the Esther CPU allows processing of unaligned buffers, but the operation is slower.

EAX—Initialization Vector Address

The initialization vector (IV) is one of the parameters on which the result of the encryption depends. The size of the IV is the same as the block size, which is 16 bytes. Consult the literature for details about initialization vectors.

EBX—Cipher Key Address

Cipher keys can have one of the following sizes: 128, 192 or 256 bits. The AES algorithm internally uses a so-called expanded key, which is derived from the given cipher key. For 128-bit keys, the expanded key can be computed by PadLock. For longer keys, you must compute it yourself.

ECX—Number of Blocks to Process

The xcrypt instruction always is used with the rep prefix, which enables its repetitive execution unless the ECX register is zero. The value in ECX is decremented after each block is encrypted or decrypted.

EDX—Control Word Address

To let PadLock know exactly how to process the data, we must fill a structure called control word with following items:

  • Algorithm—you can choose only AES.

  • Key size—one of the supported sizes.

  • Enc/Dec—direction: encryption or decryption.

  • Keygen—did we prepare the expanded key or should PadLock compute it itself?

  • Rounds—internal value of the algorithm; see the explanation later in the text and in PadLock documentation.

In C we can use union to allocate the appropriate space for the structure and a bit field to describe and access its items easily :

union cword {
    uint8_t cword[16];
    struct {
        int rounds:4;
        int algo:3;
        int keygen:1;
        int interm:1;
        int encdec:1;
        int ksize:2;
    } b;


Michal Ludvig works for Enterprise IT Ltd in New Zealand as a senior Linux engineer. He's got root access to some of the largest New Zealand corporations, but since he tends to forget his passwords, he is, in general, pretty harmless.

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