Summary: Recently, the authors [Phys. Lett., A 309, 75–82 (2003; Zbl 1010.68063
)] have developed a symmetric key block cipher algorithm using a one-dimensional chaotic map. In this paper, we propose a symmetric key block cipher algorithm in which multiple one-dimensional chaotic maps are used instead of a one-dimensional chaotic map. However, we also use an external secret key of variable length (maximum 128-bits) as used by Pareek et al. In the present cryptosystem, plaintext is divided into groups of variable length (i.e. number of blocks in each group is different) and these are encrypted sequentially by using randomly chosen chaotic map from a set of chaotic maps. For block-by-block encryption of variable length group, number of iterations and initial condition for the chaotic maps depend on the randomly chosen session key and encryption of previous block of plaintext, respectively. The whole process of encryption/decryption is governed by two dynamic tables, which are updated time to time during the encryption/decryption process. Simulation results show that the proposed cryptosystem requires less time to encrypt the plaintext as compared to the existing chaotic cryptosystems and further produces the ciphertext having flat distribution of same size as the plaintext.