Paper 2019/505

DL-LA: Deep Learning Leakage Assessment: A modern roadmap for SCA evaluations

Thorben Moos, Felix Wegener, and Amir Moradi


In recent years, deep learning has become an attractive ingredient to side-channel analysis (SCA) due to its potential to improve the success probability or enhance the performance of certain frequently executed tasks. One task that is commonly assisted by machine learning techniques is the profiling of a device's leakage behavior in order to carry out a template attack. At CHES 2019, deep learning has also been applied to non-profiled scenarios for the first time, extending its reach within SCA beyond template attacks. The proposed method, called DDLA, has some tempting advantages over traditional SCA due to merits inherited from (convolutional) neural networks. Most notably, it greatly reduces the need for pre-processing steps when the SCA traces are misaligned or when the leakage is of a multivariate nature. However, similar to traditional attack scenarios the success of this approach highly depends on the correct choice of a leakage model and the intermediate value to target. In this work we explore, for the first time in literature, whether deep learning can similarly be used as an instrument to advance another crucial (non-profiled) discipline of SCA which is inherently independent of leakage models and targeted intermediates, namely leakage assessment. In fact, given the simple classification-based nature of common leakage assessment techniques, in particular distinguishing two groups fixed-vs-random or fixed-vs-fixed, it comes as a surprise that machine learning has not been brought into this context, yet. Our contribution is the development of the first full leakage assessment methodology based on deep learning. It gives the evaluator the freedom to not worry about location, alignment and statistical order of the leakages and easily covers multivariate and horizontal patterns as well. We test our approach against a number of case studies based on FPGA, ASIC and µC implementations of the PRESENT block cipher, equipped with state-of-the-art SCA countermeasures. Our results clearly show that the proposed methodology and network structures are robust across all case studies and outperform the classical detection approaches ($t$-test and $\chi^2$-test) in all considered scenarios.

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Publication info
Published by the IACR in TCHES 2021
side channelleakage assessmentdeep learningnon-profiled
Contact author(s)
thorben moos @ rub de
2021-04-12: last of 2 revisions
2019-05-20: received
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      author = {Thorben Moos and Felix Wegener and Amir Moradi},
      title = {{DL}-{LA}: Deep Learning Leakage Assessment: A modern roadmap for {SCA} evaluations},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2019/505},
      year = {2019},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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