International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Michael Pehl


When the Decoder Has to Look Twice: Glitching a PUF Error Correction
Physical Unclonable Functions (PUFs) have been increasingly used as an alternative to non-volatile memory for the storage of cryptographic secrets. Research on side channel and fault attacks with the goal of extracting these secrets has begun to gain interest but no fault injection attack targeting the necessary error correction within a PUF device has been shown so far. This work demonstrates one such attack on a hardware fuzzy commitment scheme implementation and thus shows a new potential attack threat existing in current PUF key storage systems. After presenting evidence for the overall viability of the profiled attack by performing it on an FPGA implementation, countermeasures are analysed: we discuss the efficacy of hashing helper data with the PUF-derived key to prevent the attack as well as codeword masking, a countermeasure effective against a side channel attack. The analysis shows the limits of these approaches. First, we demonstrate the criticality of timing in codeword masking by confirming the attack's effectiveness on ostensibly protected hardware. Second, our work shows a successful attack without helper data manipulation and thus the potential for sidestepping helper data hashing countermeasures.
Machine Learning of Physical Unclonable Functions using Helper Data: Revealing a Pitfall in the Fuzzy Commitment Scheme 📺
Physical Unclonable Functions (PUFs) are used in various key-generation schemes and protocols. Such schemes are deemed to be secure even for PUFs with challenge-response behavior, as long as no responses and no reliability information about the PUF are exposed. This work, however, reveals a pitfall in these constructions: When using state-of-the-art helper data algorithms to correct noisy PUF responses, an attacker can exploit the publicly accessible helper data and challenges. We show that with this public information and the knowledge of the underlying error correcting code, an attacker can break the security of the system: The redundancy in the error correcting code reveals machine learnable features and labels. Learning these features and labels results in a predictive model for the dependencies between different challenge-response pairs (CRPs) without direct access to the actual PUF response. We provide results based on simulated data of a k-SUM PUF model and an Arbiter PUF model. We also demonstrate the attack for a k-SUM PUF model generated from real data and discuss the impact on more recent PUF constructions such as the Multiplexer PUF and the Interpose PUF. The analysis reveals that especially the frequently used repetition code is vulnerable: For a SUM-PUF in combination with a repetition code, e.g., already the observation of 800 challenges and helper data bits suffices to reduce the entropy of the key down to one bit. The analysis also shows that even other linear block codes like the BCH, the Reed-Muller, or the Single Parity Check code are affected by the problem. The code-dependent insights we gain from the analysis allow us to suggest mitigation strategies for the identified attack. While the shown vulnerability advances Machine Learning (ML) towards realistic attacks on key-storage systems with PUFs, our analysis also facilitates a better understanding and evaluation of existing approaches and protocols with PUFs. Therefore, it brings the community one step closer to a more complete leakage assessment of PUFs.