Shamir's Secret Sharing scheme essentially splits a secret into n parts, at least k of which are needed to recover it. I'm using that to encrypt/decrypt arbitrary files (it's part of a college project).

Here's a rough idea of what I'm doing:

  1. Take a file, and read N bytes. Treat those bytes as an integer, and encrypt it using this implementation of the Shamir algorithm. I get n integers, and I write one each to a file. Read N more bytes, and so on until I am done.

  2. Similarly, when decrypting, take n files, read an integer from each (I write a byte to denote the length of an integer before each, so I know how many bytes to read), decrypt the n integers to get the original one, and convert it to bytes to get N bytes, and write them to a file, and then read more integers.

This is working, but is rather slow - with encrypting to 3 files a 170 MB file, it takes me 5 minutes to encrypt, 4 minutes to decrypt. How can I speed it up? Of course, any other suggestions are also welcome.

package crypto;

import com.tiemens.secretshare.main.cli.MainCombine;
import com.tiemens.secretshare.main.cli.MainSplit;

import java.io.*;
import java.math.BigInteger;
import java.nio.file.Files;
import java.nio.file.Paths;
import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.regex.Matcher;
import java.util.regex.Pattern;

import static java.lang.Integer.min;
import static java.util.Arrays.copyOfRange;

 * Created by hooda on 2/3/2015.
public class Shamir {

    //The encoding that will be used when splitting and combining files.
    static String encoding = "ISO-8859-1";
    //The number of bytes per piece (except maybe the last one)!
    static int pieceSize = 128;

    //Mode 0 for strings, 1 for ints.
    public static ArrayList<String> shamirSplit(String inputString, int numPieces, int minPieces, int mode) {

        String type = "-sS";
        if (mode == 1) {
            type = "-sN";

        ArrayList<String> parts = new ArrayList<>();
        String[] splitArgs = {"-n", Integer.toString(numPieces), "-k", Integer.toString(minPieces), type, inputString, "-primeNone"};
        MainSplit.SplitInput splitInput = MainSplit.SplitInput.parse(splitArgs);
        MainSplit.SplitOutput splitOutput = splitInput.output();
        ByteArrayOutputStream baos = new ByteArrayOutputStream();
        PrintStream ps = new PrintStream(baos);
        String content = baos.toString(); // e.g. ISO-8859-1
        BufferedReader reader = new BufferedReader(new StringReader(content));
        String line;
        int i = 0;
        try {
            while ((line = reader.readLine()) != null && i < numPieces) {
                if (line.startsWith("Share (x")) {
        } catch (Exception e) {
            //TODO Catch
        return parts;

    //Returns the Integer that the decryption represents, but in string format.
    public static String shamirCombineInt(ArrayList<String> parts, ArrayList<Integer> partNums, ArrayList<String> flags, int k) {
        ArrayList<String> args = new ArrayList<>();

        for (int i = 0; i < k; i++) {
            String partSecret = parts.get(i);
            String partNum = partNums.get(i).toString();

        ByteArrayOutputStream baos = new ByteArrayOutputStream();
        PrintStream ps = new PrintStream(baos);
        String[] combineArgs = args.toArray(new String[args.size()]);
        MainCombine.CombineInput combineInput = MainCombine.CombineInput.parse(combineArgs, null, ps);
        MainCombine.CombineOutput combineOutput = combineInput.output();
        String content = baos.toString(); // e.g. ISO-8859-1
        Pattern pattern = Pattern.compile("secret.number = '");
        Matcher matcher = pattern.matcher(content);
        if (matcher.find()) {
            int i = matcher.end();
            char c = content.charAt(matcher.end());
            while (c != '\'') {
                c = content.charAt(i);
            return (content.substring(matcher.end(), i));
        } else {
            return "";

     * Splits the given file into numPieces, of which at least minPieces are needed to recover the original.
     * @param filePath  Path to the file to be encrypted.
     * @param numPieces Number of files to split into.
     * @param minPieces Minimum splitted files needed to recover original.
     * @return
     * @throws IOException
    public static ArrayList<FileOutputStream> fileSplit(String filePath, int numPieces, int minPieces) throws IOException {

        long startTime = System.currentTimeMillis();

        //Create files to which encrypted pieces will b written.
        ArrayList<FileOutputStream> splitFiles = new ArrayList<>(numPieces);
        for (int i = 0; i < numPieces; i++) {
            splitFiles.add(i, new FileOutputStream("E://".concat("dummy.txt.".concat(Integer.toString(i + 1)))));

        //Get the file as a byte array.
        byte[] fileAsBytes = Files.readAllBytes(Paths.get(filePath));
        System.out.println("File had ".concat(Integer.toString(fileAsBytes.length)));

        //Do the encryption.
        for (int i = 0; i < fileAsBytes.length; ) {

            //We want to partition the byte array into pieces of length 4/8/16 whatever, but if length is not multiple (eg there are 15 bytes)
            //then the last piece should be shorter. j takes care of that.
            int j = min(fileAsBytes.length - i, Shamir.pieceSize);
            byte[] piece = copyOfRange(fileAsBytes, i, i + j);
            i = i + j;

            Shamir.encryptAndWrite(piece, numPieces, minPieces, splitFiles);

        for (FileOutputStream f : splitFiles) {
        long endTime = System.currentTimeMillis();
        System.out.println("Encryption took " + (endTime - startTime) / 1000.0 + " seconds");

        //TESTING CODE. TODO remove
        startTime = System.currentTimeMillis();

        System.out.println("\n\ntesting the decryption\n\n");
        ArrayList<String> files = new ArrayList<>();
        Shamir.fileCombine(files, minPieces);

        endTime = System.currentTimeMillis();

        System.out.println("Decryption took " + (endTime - startTime) / 1000.0 + " seconds");

        return splitFiles;

     * Okay, this is a bit hacky. We want to take a piece of a file, encrypt/split it, and write the splits
     * to the given FileOutPutStreams array. We want to treat the piece as an integer (treating it as string => large space overhead).
     * This is tricky because of two reasons:
     * 1. If all the bytes are zero, out piece will be zero, and we get an exception! It cannot be encrypted.
     * 2. If the piece has any zero bytes at start, they get lost in the encrypt/decrypt process.
     * 3. We cannot predict the length of the encrypted result. A 128 byte piece, when encrypted, can be 128, or 129 or whatever bytes.
     * To fix this, we use prefixing and size byte.
     * We prefix each piece with a one byte - 00000001. This means our piece will never have zero bytes at start. Takes care of 1 and 2.
     * And, when writing the encrypted data to files, we prefix each with one byte containing its size.
     * Then, when reading, here's what we do - we have N files. From each, we read the first byte. That will give us sizes n1,n2..nN.
     * From each file, we then read the corresponding number of bytes n1 bytes from 1.. nN bytes from N, and feed them to shamir decryptor.
     * Finally, we convert the recovered number to byte array, and discard the first one - we inserted it ourselves.
     * @param piece
     * @param numPieces
     * @param minPieces
     * @param files
     * @throws IOException
    public static void encryptAndWrite(byte[] piece, int numPieces, int minPieces, ArrayList<FileOutputStream> files) throws IOException {

//        printByteArray(piece);

        //Prefixing a new 1 at the start of piece == Add to 2^(no. of bytes*8).
        BigInteger pieceAsInt = new BigInteger(1, piece);
        BigInteger toAdd = (new BigInteger("2")).pow(piece.length * 8);
        pieceAsInt = pieceAsInt.add(toAdd);
        assert (pieceAsInt.toByteArray().length == piece.length + 1);

        ArrayList<String> pieceSplit = Shamir.shamirSplit(pieceAsInt.toString(), numPieces, minPieces, 1);

        //Write to file.
        for (int i = 0; i < pieceSplit.size(); i++) {
            String secret = pieceSplit.get(i).split("=")[1].trim();
            byte[] toWrite = (new BigInteger(secret)).toByteArray();
            files.get(i).write((byte) toWrite.length);
//                files.get(i).write(flag);


    public static void writeBytesToFiles(ArrayList<String> shamirOutput, ArrayList<FileOutputStream> files) throws IOException {
        for (int i = 0; i < shamirOutput.size(); i++) {
            String partSecret = shamirOutput.get(i).split("=")[1].trim();
//            System.out.println(shamirOutput.get(i));

            byte[] toWrite = (new BigInteger(partSecret)).toByteArray();
            assert (toWrite.length <= 255);
//            System.out.println(toWrite.length);
            files.get(i).write((byte) (toWrite.length));

    public static void fileCombine(ArrayList<String> files, int k) throws IOException {

        //Create input streams, and part numbers (needed when decrypting)
        ArrayList<FileInputStream> fileStreams = new ArrayList<>(files.size());
        ArrayList<Integer> partNums = new ArrayList<>(files.size());
        for (int i = 0; i < files.size(); i++) {
            fileStreams.add(i, new FileInputStream(files.get(i)));
            partNums.add(i, Integer.parseInt(files.get(i).substring(files.get(i).lastIndexOf(".") + 1, files.get(i).length())));

        ArrayList<ArrayList<BigInteger>> filesAsInts = new ArrayList<>();
        for (int i = 0; i < fileStreams.size(); i++) {
            ArrayList<BigInteger> temp = new ArrayList<>();
            long size = fileStreams.get(i).getChannel().size();
            for (int j = 0; j < size; ) {

                //Need to bitmask because java stores integers as two's complement.
                //If we convert i>128 to a byte and back, we'll end up with negative value without this.
                int bytesToRead = (int) (fileStreams.get(i).read() & 0xFF);
                j ++;
                byte[] intBytes = new byte[bytesToRead];
                BigInteger bigInteger = new BigInteger(1, intBytes);
                j += bytesToRead;
            filesAsInts.add(i, temp);

        ArrayList<BigInteger> decryptedInts = new ArrayList<>(filesAsInts.get(0).size());
        for (int i = 0; i < filesAsInts.get(0).size(); i++) {
            ArrayList<String> intsAsStrings = new ArrayList<>();
            for (int j = 0; j < filesAsInts.size(); j++) {
            String decrypted = Shamir.shamirCombineInt(intsAsStrings, partNums, null, k);
            decryptedInts.add(i,new BigInteger(decrypted));

        FileOutputStream fileOutputStream = new FileOutputStream(files.get(0).substring(0, files.get(0).length() - 2));
        for (int i = 0; i < decryptedInts.size(); i++) {
            byte[] intBytes = decryptedInts.get(i).toByteArray();
            byte[] toWrite = copyOfRange(intBytes, 1, intBytes.length);

        System.out.println("File decrypted!");

        for(FileInputStream f : fileStreams){
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if you need all those BigIntegers, but they have a big impact on performance. Consider using int or long where possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – GiantTree
    Apr 5, 2015 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm using bigints because int/long can't hold 128 byte values. If I use ints, the space overhead will become too large (3/128 to 3/4). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2015 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess your main problems are the ArrayLists. Because you already know the size, consider using normal arrays. Lists add a big overhead to your already big overhead of the BigIntegers. \$\endgroup\$
    – GiantTree
    Apr 5, 2015 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GiantTree I though ArrayLists were similar to arrays? What's the difference? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2015 at 14:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ ArrayLists are nothing else than Lists that use an array to store data. The problem is that Lists create overhead by implementing various methods and, special for the ArrayList, need to recreate the backing array once it's not big enough. This means that you create a new array every time the old one has not enough capacity what uses much memory for long lists and consumes a good amount of time. \$\endgroup\$
    – GiantTree
    Apr 5, 2015 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


You are probably doing it wrong. The scheme says it all: secret sharing. The algorithm is to share secrets rather than data. I would rather suggest you to encrypt the whole file using a symmetric key algorithm like AES, using a random key and then share the key using Shamir's. This is the preferred way as going your way is guaranteed to be time intensive.

For reconstruction, you may regenerate the secret key and reconstruct the file using it.

Shamir, in his original paper, "How to share a secret?" writes:

If the number D is long, it is advisable to break it into shorter blocks of bits (which are handled separately) in order to avoid muti precision arithmetic operations.


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