Paper 2019/742

Vulnerability Analysis of a Soft Core Processor through Fine-grain Power Profiling

William Diehl, Abubakr Abdulgadir, and Jens-Peter Kaps


Embedded microprocessors are an important component of reconfigurable architectures. Fine-grain (e.g., cycle-accurate) power analysis of such processors has been used to improve power and energy efficiency, and detect implementation vulnerabilities, in embedded applications. However, such analysis is difficult to conduct; it requires either specialized and often expensive equipment, or construction of test architectures using disparate acquisition and analysis tools. In this research, we expand the Flexible Open-source workBench fOr Side-channel analysis (FOBOS) to facilitate exact time-domain correlation of clock cycle and device state to power measurements, and to perform power analysis on a soft core processor. We first validate the fine-grain power analysis capabilities of FOBOS through cycle-accurate analysis of power consumption of AES encryption running on a soft core processor in the Spartan-6 FPGA. We then analyze the results in the context of Simple Power Analysis side-channel attacks, and confirm power correlation of certain instructions with Hamming Weight or Hamming Distance of secret key bytes. Finally, we show that an assumption of a pure Hamming Distance power model for load-to-register instructions is not sufficient for this embedded processor architecture, and that power models using both Hamming Distance and Hamming Weight should be considered for Differential Power Analysis.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Preprint. Minor revision.
CryptographyFPGAmicroprocessorside channelDPASPA
Contact author(s)
wdiehl @ vt edu
aabdulga @ gmu edu
jkaps @ gmu edu
2019-06-25: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {William Diehl and Abubakr Abdulgadir and Jens-Peter Kaps},
      title = {Vulnerability Analysis of a Soft Core Processor through Fine-grain Power Profiling},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2019/742},
      year = {2019},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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