Paper 2021/878

Programmable RO (PRO): A Multipurpose Countermeasure against Side-channel and Fault Injection Attacks

Yuan Yao, Pantea Kiaei, Richa Singh, Shahin Tajik, and Patrick Schaumont


Side-channel and fault injection attacks reveal secret information by monitoring or manipulating the physical effects of computations involving secret variables. Circuit-level countermeasures help to deter these attacks, and traditionally such countermeasures have been developed for each attack vector separately. We demonstrate a multipurpose ring oscillator design - Programmable Ring Oscillator (PRO) to address both fault attacks and side-channel attacks in a generic, application-independent manner. PRO, as an integrated primitive, can provide on-chip side-channel resistance, power monitoring, and fault detection capabilities to a secure design. We present a grid of PROs monitoring the on-chip power network to detect anomalies. Such power anomalies may be caused by external factors such as electromagnetic fault injection and power glitches, as well as by internal factors such as hardware Trojans. By monitoring the frequency of the ring oscillators, we are able to detect the on-chip power anomaly in time as well as in location. Moreover, we show that the PROs can also inject a random noise pattern into a design's power consumption. By randomly switching the frequency of a ring oscillator, the resulting power-noise pattern significantly reduces the power-based side-channel leakage of a cipher. We discuss the design of PRO and present measurement results on a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA prototype, and we show that side-channel and fault vulnerabilities can be addressed at a low cost by introducing PRO to the design. We conclude that PRO can serve as an application-independent, multipurpose countermeasure.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
Side-channel AnalysisRing OscillatorPower SensorFault Attacks
Contact author(s)
yuan9 @ vt edu
2021-06-29: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Yuan Yao and Pantea Kiaei and Richa Singh and Shahin Tajik and Patrick Schaumont},
      title = {Programmable RO (PRO): A Multipurpose Countermeasure against Side-channel and Fault Injection Attacks},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2021/878},
      year = {2021},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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