Paper 2018/620

STELLAR: A Generic EM Side-Channel Attack Protection through Ground-Up Root-cause Analysis

Debayan Das, Mayukh Nath, Baibhab Chatterjee, Santosh Ghosh, and Shreyas Sen


The threat of side-channels is becoming increasingly prominent for resource-constrained internet-connected devices. While numerous power side-channel countermeasures have been proposed, a promising approach to protect the non-invasive electromagnetic side-channel attacks has been relatively scarce. Today's availability of high-resolution electromagnetic (EM) probes mandates the need for a low-overhead solution to protect EM side-channel analysis (SCA) attacks. This work, for the first time, performs a white-box analysis to root-cause the origin of the EM leakage from an integrated circuit. System-level EM simulations with Intel 32 nm CMOS technology interconnect stack, as an example, reveals that the EM leakage from metals above layer 8 can be detected by an external non-invasive attacker with the commercially available state-of-the-art EM probes. Equipped with this `white-box' understanding, this work proposes \textit{STELLAR}: Signature aTtenuation Embedded CRYPTO with Low-Level metAl Routing, which is a two-stage solution to eliminate the critical signal radiation from the higher-level metal layers. Firstly, we propose routing of the entire cryptographic cores power traces using the local lower-level metal layers, whose leakage cannot be picked up by an external attacker. Then, the entire crypto IP is embedded within a Signature Attenuation Hardware (SAH) which in turn suppresses the critical encryption signature before it routes the current signature to the highly radiating top-level metal layers. System-level implementation of the STELLAR hardware with local lower-level metal routing in TSMC 65 nm CMOS technology, with an AES-128 encryption engine (as an example cryptographic block) operating at 40 MHz, shows that the system remains secure against EM SCA attack even after $1 M$ encryptions, with $67\%$ energy efficiency and $1.23\times$ area overhead compared to the unprotected AES.

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Publication info
Published elsewhere. IEEE HOST 2019
EM Side-channel attackGeneric countermeasureGround-up EM Leakage ModelingCryptographic hardwareSTELLARSignature Attenuation Hardware
Contact author(s)
das60 @ purdue edu
2019-03-13: last of 8 revisions
2018-06-22: received
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      author = {Debayan Das and Mayukh Nath and Baibhab Chatterjee and Santosh Ghosh and Shreyas Sen},
      title = {{STELLAR}: A Generic {EM} Side-Channel Attack Protection through Ground-Up Root-cause Analysis},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/620},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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