Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2016/473

Exploiting the Physical Disparity: Side-Channel Attacks on Memory Encryption

Thomas Unterluggauer and Stefan Mangard

Abstract: Memory and disk encryption is a common measure to protect sensitive information in memory from adversaries with physical access. However, physical access also comes with the risk of physical attacks. As these may pose a threat to memory confidentiality, this paper investigates contemporary memory and disk encryption schemes and their implementations with respect to Differential Power Analysis (DPA) and Differential Fault Analysis (DFA). It shows that DPA and DFA recover the keys of all the investigated schemes, including the tweakable block ciphers XEX and XTS. This paper also verifies the feasibility of such attacks in practice. Using the EM side channel, a DPA on the disk encryption employed within the ext4 file system is shown to reveal the used master key on a Zynq Z-7010 system on chip. The results suggest that memory and disk encryption secure against physical attackers is at least four times more expensive.

Category / Keywords: implementation / memory encryption, side-channel attack, power analysis, DPA, fault analysis, DFA, ext4

Original Publication (in the same form): COSADE 2016

Date: received 17 May 2016

Contact author: thomas unterluggauer at iaik tugraz at

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Version: 20160517:151742 (All versions of this report)

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