Side Channels as Building Blocks

Markus Kasper, Amir Moradi, Georg T. Becker, Oliver Mischke, Tim Güneysu, Chris­tof Paar, Wayne Burleson

Journal of Cryptographic Engineering, Volume 2, Number 3, pages 143-159, 2012, Springer.


Since the introduction of the first side-channel analyses in academia about 15 years ago, several physical attacks have been presented that exploit side-channel leakages to break implementations of cryptographic algorithms. This article deals with the same physical property of electronic devices, but focuses on the art of tailoring it for constructive uses. More precisely, two scenarios, i.e., hardware Trojans and IP watermarking, are illustrated in which the designer of an electronic circuit can add functionality by considering side channels as part of the available design space. Both applications use the same concept, i.e., deliberately leaking a secret through a side channel while keeping the introduced side channel hidden from adversaries and attackers. This article provides a broad overview of the existing works for both applications and should serve as a comprehensible introduction to the underlying field of research. This includes many subtle details that have not been discussed in literature yet, including existing shortcomings and possible improvements to the existing works. The solutions summarized in this article provide general guidelines for theorists and practitioners to use side channels constructively to achieve designs that are robust against detection and removal. Furthermore we present an entirely new design of a Trojan side-channel. This architecture demonstrates the potential of a Trojan side-channel that is neatly tailored to the targeted implementation. The new design removes all noninvasive starting points a third party could use to analyze or get access to the secret-channel.

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