International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Alexander Wagner


Unlock the Door to my Secrets, but don’t Forget to Glitch: A comprehensive analysis of flash erase suppression attacks
In this work, we look into an attack vector known as flash erase suppression. Many microcontrollers have a feature that allows the debug interface protection to be deactivated after wiping the entire flash memory. The flash erase suppression attack exploits this feature by glitching the mass erase, allowing unlimited access to the data stored in flash memory. This type of attack was presented in a confined context by Schink et al. at CHES 2021. In this paper, we investigate whether this generic attack vector poses a serious threat to real-world products. For this to be true, the success rate of the attack must be sufficiently high, as otherwise, device unique secrets might be erased. Further, the applicability to different devices, different glitching setups, cost, and limitations must be explored. We present the first in-depth analysis of this attack vector. Our study yields that realistic attacks on devices from multiple vendors are possible. As countermeasures can hardly be retrofitted with software, our findings should be considered by users when choosing microcontrollers for security-relevant products or for protection of intellectual property (IP), as well by hardware designers when creating next generation microcontrollers.
Impeccable Keccak: Towards Fault Resilient SPHINCS+ Implementations
The standardization of the hash-based digital signature scheme SPHINCS+ proceeds faster than initially expected. This development seems to be welcomed by practitioners who appreciate the high confidence in SPHINCS+’s security assumptions and its reliance on well-known hash functions. However, the implementation security of SPHINCS+ leaves many questions unanswered, due to its proneness to fault injection attacks. Previous works have shown, that even imprecise fault injections on the signature generation are sufficient for universal forgery. This led the SPHINCS+ team to promote the usage of hardware countermeasures against such attacks. Since the majority of operations in SPHINCS+ is dedicated to the computation of the Keccak function, we focus on its security. At the core, hardware countermeasures against fault injection attacks are almost exclusively based on redundancy. For hash functions such as Keccak, straightforward instance- or time-redundancy is expensive in terms of chip area or latency. Further, for applications that must withstand powerful fault adversaries, these simple forms of redundancy are not sufficient. To this end, we propose our impeccable Keccak design. It is based on the methodology presented in the original Impeccable Circuits paper by Aghaie et al. from 2018. On the way, we show potential pitfalls when designing impeccable circuits and how the concept of active security can be applied to impeccable circuits. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to provide proofs of active security for impeccable circuits. Further, we show a novel way to implement non-linear functions without look-up tables. We use our findings to design an impeccable Keccak. Assuming an adversary with the ability to flip single bits, our design detects all attacks with three and less flipped bits. Attacks from adversaries who are able to flip four or more bits are still detected with a high probability. Thus, our design is one of the most resilient designs published so far and the only Keccak design that is provably secure within a bit-flip model. At an area overhead of factor 3.2, our design is competitive with state-of-the-art designs with less resilience.
Security and Trust in Open Source Security Tokens 📺
Using passwords for authentication has been proven vulnerable in countless security incidents. Hardware security tokens effectively prevent most password-related security issues and improve security indisputably. However, we would like to highlight that there are new threats from attackers with physical access which need to be discussed. Supply chain adversaries may manipulate devices on a large scale and install backdoors before they even reach end users. In evil maid scenarios, specific devices may even be attacked while already in use. Hence, we thoroughly investigate the security and trustworthiness of seven commercially available open source security tokens, including devices from the two market leaders: SoloKeys and Nitrokey. Unfortunately, we identify and practically verify significant vulnerabilities in all seven examined tokens. Some of them are based on severe, previously undiscovered, vulnerabilities of two major microcontrollers which are used at a large scale in various products. Our findings clearly emphasize the significant threat from supply chain and evil maid scenarios since the attacks are practical and only require moderate attacker efforts. Fortunately, we are able to describe software-based countermeasures as effective improvements to retrofit the examined devices. To improve the security and trustworthiness of future security tokens, we also derive important general design recommendations.
Investigating Profiled Side-Channel Attacks Against the DES Key Schedule 📺
Recent publications describe profiled single trace side-channel attacks (SCAs) against the DES key-schedule of a “commercially available security controller”. They report a significant reduction of the average remaining entropy of cryptographic keys after the attack, with surprisingly large, key-dependent variations of attack results, and individual cases with remaining key entropies as low as a few bits. Unfortunately, they leave important questions unanswered: Are the reported wide distributions of results plausible - can this be explained? Are the results device-specific or more generally applicable to other devices? What is the actual impact on the security of 3-key triple DES? We systematically answer those and several other questions by analyzing two commercial security controllers and a general purpose microcontroller. We observe a significant overall reduction and, importantly, also observe a large key-dependent variation in single DES key security levels, i.e. 49.4 bit mean and 0.9 % of keys < 40 bit (first investigated security controller; other results similar). We also observe a small fraction of keys with exceptionally low security levels that can be called weak keys. It is unclear, whether a device’s side-channel security should be assessed based on such rare weak key outliers. We generalize results to other leakage models by attacking the hardware DES accelerator of a general purpose microcontroller exhibiting a different leakage model. A highly simplified leakage simulation also confirms the wide distribution and shows that security levels are predictable to some extent. Through extensive investigations we find that the actual weakness of keys mainly stems from the specific switching noise they cause. Based on our investigations we expect that widely distributed results and weak outliers should be expected for all profiled attacks against (insufficiently protected) key-schedules, regardless of the algorithm and specific implementation. Finally, we describe a sound approach to estimate actual 3-key triple-DES security levels from empirical single DES results and find that the impact on the security of 3-key triple-DES is limited, i.e. 96.1 bit mean and 0.24 % of key-triples < 80 bit for the same security controller.