Optimizing Electromagnetic Fault Injection with Genetic Algorithms



Fault injection is a serious threat for implementations of cryptography, especially on small embedded devices. In particular, electromagnetic fault injection (EMFI) is a powerful active attack, requiring minimal modifications on the device under attack while having excellent penetration capabilities. The challenge is in finding the right combination of the attack parameters and their values. Namely, the number of possible combinations (for all the values of relevant parameters) is typically huge and rendering exhaustive search impossible.

In this chapter, we introduce this problem and we survey some previous attempts for solving it. We also present a novel evolutionary algorithm for optimizing the parameters search for EM fault injection that outperforms all known search methods for EMFI. The results are widely applicable as the cryptographic device under attack is considered a black box, with only a few very general assumptions on its inner workings.

We test our novel evolutionary algorithm by attacking the SHA-3 algorithm. Our results leverage 40 times more faulty measurements and 20 times more distinct fault measurements than one could obtain with a random search. When this methodology is coupled with the algebraic fault attack, we get 25% more exploitable faults per individual measurement.



This work has been supported in part by Croatian Science Foundation under the project IP-2014-09-4882 and by the Technology Foundation TTW (Project 13499 TYPHOON), from the Dutch government.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Electrical Engineering and ComputingUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Digital Security GroupRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Cyber Security GroupDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

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