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Efficient Attack-Surface Exploration for Electromagnetic Fault Injection

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Constructive Side-Channel Analysis and Secure Design (COSADE 2023)


Electromagnetic Fault Injection is a physical attack that aims to disrupt the operation of hardware circuits to bypass existing confidentiality and integrity protections. The success probability of the attack depends, among other things, on many different variables such as the probe used to inject the pulse, its position, the pulse intensity, and duration. The number of such parameter combinations and the stochastic nature of the induced faults make a comprehensive search of the parameter space impractical. However, it is of utmost importance for hardware circuit manufacturers to identify these vulnerability points efficiently and introduce countermeasures to mitigate them.

This work presents a methodology to efficiently identify the subregion of the attack parameter space that maximizes the occurrence of a informative fault. The idea of this work consists in applying a multidimensional bisection method and exploiting the equilibrium between a pulse that is too strong and one that is too weak to produce a disruption on the circuit’s operation. We show that such a methodology can outperform existing methods on a concrete, state-of-the-art embedded multicore platform.

D. A. E. Carta and G. Quagliarella completed this work while at Security Pattern.

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  1. 1.

    Being able to skip a branch instruction could, for example, bypass security checks.

  2. 2.

    This is not a requirement as some fault-injection attacks might work even remotely (e.g., clkscrew [22] and rowhammer).

  3. 3.

    Conditions must be interpreted as sufficient as the bisection algorithm we are referring to can be applied to non-monotone functions as well by using a neighbor search.

  4. 4.

    It is an indirect stop criterion for the bisection method. The higher \(\epsilon \), the lower the bar will be set to recognize the rectangles as bracketing rectangles, and thus continue the search.


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Funded by the European Union under grant agreement no. 101070008. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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Carta, D.A.E., Zaccaria, V., Quagliarella, G., Molteni, M.C. (2023). Efficient Attack-Surface Exploration for Electromagnetic Fault Injection. In: Kavun, E.B., Pehl, M. (eds) Constructive Side-Channel Analysis and Secure Design. COSADE 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13979. Springer, Cham.

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