Paper 2017/1253

Micro-Architectural Power Simulator for Leakage Assessment of Cryptographic Software on ARM Cortex-M3 Processors

Yann Le Corre, Johann Großschädl, and Daniel Dinu


Masking is a common technique to protect software implementations of symmetric cryptographic algorithms against Differential Power Analysis (DPA) attacks. The development of a properly masked version of a block cipher is an incremental and time-consuming process since each iteration of the development cycle involves a costly leakage assessment. To achieve a high level of DPA resistance, the architecture-specific leakage properties of the target processor need to be taken into account. However, for most embedded processors, a detailed description of these leakage properties is lacking and often not even the HDL model of the micro-architecture is openly available. Recent research has shown that power simulators for leakage assessment can significantly speed up the development process. Unfortunately, few such simulators exist and even fewer take target-specific leakages into account. To fill this gap, we present MAPS, a micro-architectural power simulator for the M3 series of ARM Cortex processors, one of today's most widely-used embedded platforms. MAPS is fast, easy to use, and able to model the Cortex-M3 pipeline leakages, in particular the leakage introduced by the pipeline registers. The M3 leakage properties are inferred from its HDL source code, and therefore MAPS does not need a complicated and expensive profiling phase. Taking first-order masked Assembler implementations of the lightweight cipher Simon as example, we study how the pipeline leakages manifest and discuss some guidelines on how to avoid them.

Note: The full source code of MAPS is available on Github under the GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3):

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Publication info
Published elsewhere. Proceedings of COSADE 2018
side-channel attacks
Contact author(s)
johann groszschaedl @ uni lu
2018-04-23: last of 4 revisions
2017-12-30: received
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      author = {Yann Le Corre and Johann Großschädl and Daniel Dinu},
      title = {Micro-Architectural Power Simulator for Leakage Assessment of Cryptographic Software on ARM Cortex-M3 Processors},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2017/1253},
      year = {2017},
      doi = {10.1007/978-3-319-89641-0_5},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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