International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Sven Freud


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.
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.