Paper 2018/053

Study of Deep Learning Techniques for Side-Channel Analysis and Introduction to ASCAD Database

Emmanuel Prouff, Remi Strullu, Ryad Benadjila, Eleonora Cagli, and Cecile Dumas


To provide insurance on the resistance of a system against side-channel analysis, several national or private schemes are today promoting an evaluation strategy, common in classical cryptography, which is focussing on the most powerful adversary who may train to learn about the dependency between the device behaviour and the sensitive data values. Several works have shown that this kind of analysis, known as Template Attacks in the side-channel domain, can be rephrased as a classical Machine Learning classification problem with learning phase. Following the current trend in the latter area, recent works have demonstrated that deep learning algorithms were very efficient to conduct security evaluations of embedded systems and had many advantage compared to the other methods. Unfortunately, their hyper-parametrization has often been kept secret by the authors who only discussed on the main design principles and on the attack efficiencies. This is clearly an important limitation of previous works since (1) the latter parametrization is known to be a challenging question in Machine Learning and (2) it does not allow for the reproducibility of the presented results. This paper aims to address theses limitations in several ways. First, completing recent works, we propose a comprehensive study of deep learning algorithms when applied in the context of side-channel analysis and we clarify the links with the classical template attacks. Secondly, we address the question of the choice of the hyper-parameters for the class of multi-layer perceptron networks and convolutional neural networks. Several benchmarks and rationales are given in the context of the analysis of a masked implementation of the AES algorithm. To enable perfect reproducibility of our tests, this work also introduces an open platform including all the sources of the target implementation together with the campaign of electro-magnetic measurements exploited in our benchmarks. This open database, named ASCAD, has been specified to serve as a common basis for further works on this subject. Our work confirms the conclusions made by Cagli et al. at CHES 2017 about the high potential of convolutional neural networks. Interestingly, it shows that the approach followed to design the algorithm VGG-16 used for image recognition seems also to be sound when it comes to fix an architecture for side-channel analysis.

Note: Add Acknowledgement to REASSURE project.

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Publication info
Published elsewhere. Minor revision. Journal of Cryptographic Engineering 10(2)
Deep LearningSide-Channel AnalysisAES
Contact author(s)
e prouff @ gmail com
2020-06-04: last of 7 revisions
2018-01-15: received
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      author = {Emmanuel Prouff and Remi Strullu and Ryad Benadjila and Eleonora Cagli and Cecile Dumas},
      title = {Study of Deep Learning Techniques for Side-Channel  Analysis and Introduction to {ASCAD} Database},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/053},
      year = {2018},
      doi = {10.1007/s13389-019-00220-8},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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