International Association for Cryptologic Research

Ph.D. Database

The aim of the IACR Ph.D. database is twofold. On the first hand, we want to offer an overview of Ph.D. already completed in the domain of cryptology. Where possible, this should also include a subject classification, an abstract, and access to the full text. On the second hand, it deals with Ph.D. subjects currently under investigation. This way, we provide a timely map of contemporary research in cryptology. All entries or changes need to be approved by an editor. You can contact them via phds (at)


Matthieu Rivain (#216)
Name Matthieu Rivain
Personal Homepage
Topic of his/her doctorate. On the Physical Security of Cryptographic Implementations
Category implementation
Ph.D. Supervisor(s) Jean-Sebastien Coron
Year of completion 2009

In modern cryptography, an encryption system is usually studied in the so-called black-box model. In this model, the cryptosystem is seen as an oracle replying to message encryption (and/or decryption) queries according to a secret value: the key. The security of the cryptosystem is then defined following a simple game. An adversary questions the oracle about the encryption (and/or decryption) of messages of its choice and, depending on the answers, attempts to recover the value of the secret key (or to encrypt/decrypt a message for which he did not query the oracle). If by following an optimal strategy the adversary only has a negligible chance of winning, the system is considered as secure. Several cryptosystems have been proved secure in the black-box model. However, this model is not always sufficient to ensure the security of a cryptosystem in practice. Let us consider the example of smart cards which are used as platforms for cryptosystems in various applications such as banking, access control, mobile telephony, pay TV, or electronic passport. By the very nature of these applications, a cryptosystem embedded on a smart card is physically accessible to potential attackers. This physical access invalidates the modeling of the cryptosystem as a simple encryption oracle since it allows the adversary to observe and disrupt its physical behavior. New attacks then become possible which are known as physical cryptanalysis.

Physical cryptanalysis includes two main families of attacks: side channel attacks and fault attacks. The purpose of side channel attacks is to analyze the different physical leakages of a cryptographic implementation during its computation. Chief among these rank timing, power consumption, and electromagnetic radiation. Observing these so-called side channels provides sensitive information about the cryptographic computation. The secret key value can then be easily recovered by statistical treatment although the cryptosystem is secure in the black-box model. The access to a cryptographic implementation enables more than a simple observation of its physical behavior; it is also possible to disrupt its computation. Working on this assumption, fault attacks consist in corrupting cryptographic computations so that they produce erroneous results. Surprisingly, these results can be used in order to recover information about the secret key.

This thesis focuses on physical cryptanalysis as well as on the secure implementation of cryptographic primitives. We examine in the first part side channel attacks from a theoretical viewpoint. Various techniques of attack based on different statistical tools are addressed. We analyze their success rate, we compare their efficiency and we propose some improvements. Our analyses are illustrated by results of simulated attacks as well as practical attacks on smart cards. The second part of this thesis is devoted to one of the most widely used countermeasures to side channel attacks: data masking. Our investigations concentrate on generic masking schemes for block ciphers such as the encryption standards DES and AES. We analyze existing schemes, exhibiting some attacks against certain of them and we propose new designs. The third and last part of this thesis deals with fault attacks. First, we describe a new attack on the DES cipher which exhibits some requirements to its secure implementation. We then provide a case study based on the RSA cryptosystem where we propose a new countermeasure which can also be applied to secure any exponentiation algorithm. We finally address an important issue for practical security: the implementation of coherence checks.

E-Mail Address matthieu.rivain (at)
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