Paper 2023/1055

OccPoIs: Points of Interest based on Neural Network's Key Recovery in Side-Channel Analysis through Occlusion

Trevor Yap, Nanyang Technological University
Shivam Bhasin, Nanyang Technological University
Stjepan Picek, Radboud University Nijmegen

Deep neural networks (DNNs) represent a powerful technique for assessing cryptographic security concerning side-channel analysis (SCA) due to their ability to aggregate leakages automatically, rendering attacks more efficient without preprocessing. Nevertheless, despite their effectiveness, DNNs employed in SCA are predominantly black-box algorithms, posing considerable interpretability challenges. In this paper, we propose a novel technique called Key Guessing Occlusion (KGO) that acquires a minimal set of sample points required by the DNN for key recovery, which we call OccPoIs. These OccPoIs provide information on which areas of the traces are important to the DNN for retrieving the key, enabling evaluators to know where to refine their cryptographic implementation. After obtaining the OccPoIs, we first explore the leakages found in these OccPoIs to understand what the DNN is learning with first-order Correlation Power Analysis (CPA). We show that KGO obtains relevant sample points that have a high correlation with the given leakage model but also acquires sample points that first-order CPA fails to capture. Furthermore, unlike the first-order CPA in the masking setting, KGO obtains these OccPoIs without the knowledge of the shares or mask. Next, we employ the template attack (TA) using the OccPoIs to investigate if KGO could be used as a feature selection tool. We show that using the OccPoIs with TA can recover the key for all the considered synchronized datasets and is consistent as a feature selection tool even on datasets protected by first-order masking. Furthermore, it also allows a more efficient attack than other feature selections on the first-order masking dataset called ASCADf.

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Side-channelNeural NetworkDeep LearningProfiling attackExplanabilityFeature ImportanceFeature Selection
Contact author(s)
trevor yap @ ntu edu sg
sbhasin @ ntu edu sg
picek stjepan @ gmail co
2023-07-11: approved
2023-07-06: received
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      author = {Trevor Yap and Shivam Bhasin and Stjepan Picek},
      title = {OccPoIs: Points of Interest based on Neural Network's Key Recovery in Side-Channel Analysis through Occlusion},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2023/1055},
      year = {2023},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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