Paper 2021/197

Gambling for Success: The Lottery Ticket Hypothesis in Deep Learning-based SCA

Guilherme Perin, Lichao Wu, and Stjepan Picek


Deep learning-based side-channel analysis (SCA) represents a strong approach for profiling attacks. Still, this does not mean it is trivial to find neural networks that perform well for any setting. Based on the developed neural network architectures, we can distinguish between small neural networks that are easier to tune and less prone to overfitting but could have insufficient capacity to model the data. On the other hand, large neural networks have sufficient capacity but can overfit and are more difficult to tune. This brings an interesting trade-off between simplicity and performance. This work proposes to use a pruning strategy and recently proposed Lottery Ticket Hypothesis (LTH) as an efficient method to tune deep neural networks for profiling SCA. Pruning provides a regularization effect on deep neural networks and reduces the overfitting posed by overparameterized models. We demonstrate that we can find pruned neural networks that perform on the level of larger networks, where we manage to reduce the number of weights by more than 90% on average. This way, pruning and LTH approaches become alternatives to costly and difficult hyperparameter tuning in profiling SCA. Our analysis is conducted over different masked AES datasets and for different neural network topologies. Our results indicate that pruning, and more specifically LTH, can result in competitive deep learning models.

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Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
Side-channel AnalysisDeep learningLottery Ticket HypothesisPruning
Contact author(s)
guilhermeperin7 @ gmail com
L Wu-4 @ tudelft nl
picek stjepan @ gmail com
2021-11-17: last of 2 revisions
2021-02-24: received
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      author = {Guilherme Perin and Lichao Wu and Stjepan Picek},
      title = {Gambling for Success: The Lottery Ticket Hypothesis in Deep Learning-based SCA},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2021/197},
      year = {2021},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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