Paper 2013/369

Block Ciphers that are Easier to Mask: How Far Can we Go?

Benoît Gérard, Vincent Grosso, María Naya-Plasencia, and François-Xavier Standaert


The design and analysis of lightweight block ciphers has been a very active research area over the last couple of years, with many innovative proposals trying to optimize different performance figures. However, since these block ciphers are dedicated to low-cost embedded devices, their implementation is also a typical target for side-channel adversaries. As preventing such attacks with countermeasures usually implies significant performance overheads, a natural open problem is to propose new algorithms for which physical security is considered as an optimization criteria, hence allowing better performances again. We tackle this problem by studying how much we can tweak standard block ciphers such as the AES Rijndael in order to allow efficient masking (that is one of the most frequently considered solutions to improve security against side-channel attacks). For this purpose, we first investigate alternative S-boxes and round structures. We show that both approaches can be used separately in order to limit the total number of non-linear operations in the block cipher, hence allowing more efficient masking. We then combine these ideas into a concrete instance of block cipher called Zorro. We further provide a detailed security analysis of this new cipher taking its design specificities into account, leading us to exploit innovative techniques borrowed from hash function cryptanalysis (that are sometimes of independent interest). Eventually, we conclude the paper by evaluating the efficiency of masked Zorro implementations in an 8-bit microcontroller, and exhibit their interesting performance figures.

Note: Corrected Figure 6.

Available format(s)
Secret-key cryptography
Publication info
Published elsewhere. Major revision. Proceedings of CHES 2013, , Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 8086, pp 383-399, Santa Barbara, California, USA, August 2013.
implementation issuesside-channel analysismasking
Contact author(s)
fstandae @ uclouvain be
2013-10-29: last of 4 revisions
2013-06-12: received
See all versions
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Benoît Gérard and Vincent Grosso and María Naya-Plasencia and François-Xavier Standaert},
      title = {Block Ciphers that are Easier to Mask: How Far Can we Go?},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2013/369},
      year = {2013},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
Note: In order to protect the privacy of readers, does not use cookies or embedded third party content.