International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Shahin Tajik


Silicon Echoes: Non-Invasive Trojan and Tamper Detection using Frequency-Selective Impedance Analysis
The threat of chip-level tampering and its detection has been widely researched. Hardware Trojan insertions are prominent examples of such tamper events. Altering the placement and routing of a design or removing a part of a circuit for side-channel leakage/fault sensitivity amplification are other instances of such attacks. While semi- and fully-invasive physical verification methods can confidently detect such stealthy tamper events, they are costly, time-consuming, and destructive. On the other hand, virtually all proposed non-invasive side-channel methods suffer from noise and, therefore, have low confidence. Moreover, they require activating the tampered part of the circuit (e.g., the Trojan trigger) to compare and detect the modifications. In this work, we introduce a non-invasive post-silicon tamper detection technique applicable to different classes of tamper events at the chip level without requiring the activation of the malicious circuit. Our method relies on the fact that physical modifications (regardless of their physical, activation, or action characteristics) alter the impedance of the chip. Hence, characterizing the impedance can lead to the detection of the tamper events. To sense the changes in the impedance, we deploy known RF tools, namely, scattering parameters, in which we inject sine wave signals with high frequencies to the power distribution network (PDN) of the system and measure the “echo” of the signal. The reflected signals in various frequency bands reveal different tamper events based on their impact size on the die. To validate our claims, we performed measurements on several proof-ofconcept tampered hardware implementations realized on FPGAs manufactured with a 28 nm technology. We further show that deploying the Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) distance can distinguish between tamper events and noise resulting from manufacturing process variation of different chips/boards. Based on the acquired results, we demonstrate that stealthy hardware Trojans, as well as sophisticated modifications of P&R, can be detected.
ImpedanceVerif: On-Chip Impedance Sensing for System-Level Tampering Detection
Physical attacks can compromise the security of cryptographic devices. Depending on the attack’s requirements, adversaries might need to (i) place probes in the proximity of the integrated circuits (ICs) package, (ii) create physical connections between their probes/wires and the system’s PCB, or (iii) physically tamper with the PCB’s components, chip’s package, or substitute the entire PCB to prepare the device for the attack. While tamper-proof enclosures prevent and detect physical access to the system, their high manufacturing cost and incompatibility with legacy systems make them unattractive for many low-cost scenarios. In this paper, inspired by methods known from the field of power integrity analysis, we demonstrate how the impedance characterization of the system’s power distribution network (PDN) using on-chip circuit-based network analyzers can detect various classes of tamper events. We explain how these embedded network analyzers, without any modifications to the system, can be deployed on FPGAs to extract the frequency response of the PDN. The analysis of these frequency responses reveals different classes of tamper events from board to chip level. To validate our claims, we run an embedded network analyzer on FPGAs of a family of commercial development kits and perform extensive measurements for various classes of PCB and IC package tampering required for conducting different side-channel or fault attacks. Using the Wasserstein Distance as a statistical metric, we further show that we can confidently detect tamper events. Our results, interestingly, show that even environment-level tampering activities, such as the proximity of contactless EM probes to the IC package or slightly polished IC package, can be detected using on-chip impedance sensing.
Key Extraction Using Thermal Laser Stimulation A Case Study on Xilinx Ultrascale FPGAs
Thermal laser stimulation (TLS) is a failure analysis technique, which can be deployed by an adversary to localize and read out stored secrets in the SRAM of a chip. To this date, a few proof-of-concept experiments based on TLS or similar approaches have been reported in the literature, which do not reflect a real attack scenario. Therefore, it is still questionable whether this attack technique is applicable to modern ICs equipped with side-channel countermeasures. The primary aim of this work is to assess the feasibility of launching a TLS attack against a device with robust security features. To this end, we select a modern FPGA, and more specifically, its key memory, the so-called battery-backed SRAM (BBRAM), as a target. We demonstrate that an attacker is able to extract the stored 256-bit AES key used for the decryption of the FPGA’s bitstream, by conducting just a single non-invasive measurement. Moreover, it becomes evident that conventional countermeasures are incapable of preventing our attack since the FPGA is turned off during key recovery. Based on our time measurements, the required effort to develop the attack is shown to be less than 7 hours. To avert this powerful attack, we propose a low-cost and CMOS compatible countermeasure circuit, which is capable of protecting the BBRAM from TLS attempts even when the FPGA is powered off. Using a proof-of-concept prototype of our countermeasure, we demonstrate its effectiveness against TLS key extraction attempts.

Program Committees

CHES 2019