What is the simplest known one-way function?

By simplest, I mean, when implemented as boolean logic, the number of AND/OR/NOT gates needed is minimal (smallest circuit complexity).

(I'm trying to find out if it's possible to build a one-way function using a mechanical computer, so simplicity would be very important.)

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    $\begingroup$ There is no known one-way function. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 6:45
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    $\begingroup$ To elaborate on @EmilJeřábek 's answer: There are many functions that are conjectured to be one-way, but we cannot prove it for any of them (since such a proof implies that P is different than NP). $\endgroup$
    – Or Meir
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek It seems according to Or Meir's comment that there are very likely several known one-way functions. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ @mathworker21 I don't know what you misunderstood in Or Meir's comment, but he confirms what I wrote: there are various functions that are conjectured to be one-way, but none that are known to be one-way. And since the existence (even nonconstructive) of one-way functions is an even stronger statement than $\mathrm{P\ne NP}$, it may take a while to prove, to put it diplomatically. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek Let $f$ be an explicit example of a function that we strongly believe is one-way but cannot prove. Clearly $f$ is a known function (we know it). Therefore, if $f$ turns out to be a one-way function, then $f$ is a known one-way function. Maybe I am misunderstanding. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 13:55

1 Answer 1


A reasonable approach is probably to take a lightweight block cipher, $E_\cdot(\cdot)$, fix a constant $c$, and use the function $f(k) = E_k(c)$ as the function. While we have no proof that $f$ is a one-way function, it is a good candidate for a one-way function. In particular, if the block cipher is secure, then $f$ will be a one-way function.

There are a number of designs of lightweight block ciphers. As a starting point, you might look at Piccolo and PRINCE, Simon, LBlock, PRESENT, µ2. There might be better designs.

Another plausible approach is to use a lightweight stream cipher. Any secure stream cipher will also be a one-way function. For instance, you could look at using A5/1 or ACORN.


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