Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems – CHES 2008

Volume 5154 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 214-227

Recovering Secret Keys from Weak Side Channel Traces of Differing Lengths

  • Colin D. WalterAffiliated withComodo CA Research Laboratory


Secret key recovery from weak side channel leakage is always a challenge in the presence of standard counter-measures. The use of randomised exponent recodings in RSA or ECC means that, over multiple re-uses of a key, operations which correspond to a given key bit are not aligned in the traces. This enhances the difficulties because traces cannot be averaged to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

The situation can be described using a hidden Markov model (HMM) but the standard solution is computationally infeasible when many traces have to be processed. Previous work has not provided a satisfactory way out. Here, instead of ad hoc sequential processing of complete traces, trace prefixes are combined naturally in parallel. This results in the systematic extraction of a much higher proportion of the information theoretic content of the leakage, enabling many keys of typical ECC length to be recovered with a computationally feasible search through a list of most likely values. Moreover, likely errors can now be located very easily.


Side channel leakage simple power analysis SPA Hidden Markov Models Forward-Backward Algorithm Viterbi Algorithm