Paper 2018/832

Lightweight and Side-channel Secure 4x4 S-Boxes from Cellular Automata Rules

Ashrujit Ghoshal, Rajat Sadhukhan, Sikhar Patranabis, Nilanjan Datta, Stjepan Picek, and Debdeep Mukhopadhyay


This work focuses on side-channel resilient design strategies for symmetric-key cryptographic primitives targeting lightweight applications. In light of NIST's lightweight cryptography project, design choices for block ciphers must consider not only security against traditional cryptanalysis, but also side-channel security, while adhering to low area and power requirements. In this paper, we explore design strategies for substitution-permutation network (SPN)-based block ciphers that make them amenable to low-cost threshold implementations (TI) - a provably secure strategy against side-channel attacks. The core building blocks for our strategy are cryptographically optimal 4x4 S-Boxes, implemented via repeated iterations of simple cellular automata~(CA) rules. We present highly optimized TI circuits for such S-Boxes, that consume nearly 40% less area and power as compared to popular lightweight S-Boxes such as PRESENT and GIFT. We validate our claims via implementation results on ASIC using 180nm technology. We also present a comparison of TI circuits for two popular lightweight linear diffusion layer choices - bit permutations and MixColumns using almost-maximum-distance-separable (almost-MDS) matrices. We finally illustrate design paradigms that combine the aforementioned TI circuits for S-Boxes and diffusion layers to obtain fully side-channel secure SPN block cipher implementations with low area and power requirements.

Available format(s)
Secret-key cryptography
Publication info
Published by the IACR in FSE 2018
LightweightBlock CiphersSide-channelsThreshold ImplementationCellular AutomataOptimal S-Box
Contact author(s)
ashrujitg @ iitkgp ac in
rajat sadhukhan @ iitkgp ac in
sikhar patranabis @ iitkgp ac in
nilanjan datta @ iitkgp ac in
s picek @ tudelft nl
debdeep @ cse iitkgp ac in
2018-09-06: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Ashrujit Ghoshal and Rajat Sadhukhan and Sikhar Patranabis and Nilanjan Datta and Stjepan Picek and Debdeep Mukhopadhyay},
      title = {Lightweight and Side-channel Secure 4x4 S-Boxes from Cellular Automata Rules},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/832},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
Note: In order to protect the privacy of readers, does not use cookies or embedded third party content.