Paper 2023/920

Beware Your Standard Cells! On Their Role in Static Power Side-Channel Attacks

Jitendra Bhandari, New York University
Likhitha Mankali, New York University
Mohammed Nabeel, New York University Abu Dhabi
Ozgur Sinanoglu, New York University Abu Dhabi
Ramesh Karri, New York University
Johann Knechtel, New York University Abu Dhabi

Static or leakage power, which is especially prominent in advanced technology nodes, enables so-called static power side-channel attacks (S-PSCA). While countermeasures exist, they often incur considerable overheads. Besides, hardware Trojans represent another threat. Although the interplay between static power, down-scaling of technology nodes, and the vulnerability to S-PSCA is already established, an important detail was not covered yet: the role of the components at the heart of this sensitive interplay, the standard cells. Here, we study this intricate relationship for two commercial 28nm and 65nm technologies, using a commercial-grade IC design setup, and under realistic PPA objectives. Specifically, we study how threshold-voltage (VT) tuning of standard cells impacts the resilience of representative AES and PRESENT cipher hardware, including versions with established countermeasures. Our proposed CAD framework enables a security-vs-PPA-aware design-space exploration. Contrary to the belief that high-performance designs are generally more vulnerable to S-PSCA, we find that timing constraints and the distribution of different VT cells are more pivotal factors. Furthermore, we discover that attackers can deploy highly effective and stealthy S-PSCA-based Trojans, all without any gate overheads or any timing violations.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Hardware SecurityPower Side-ChannelStatic PowerHardware TrojanThreshold VoltageCADCPA28nm65nm
Contact author(s)
jb7410 @ nyu edu
lm4344 @ nyu edu
mtn2 @ nyu edu
ozgursin @ nyu edu
rkarri @ nyu edu
johann @ nyu edu
2024-03-11: last of 2 revisions
2023-06-13: received
See all versions
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Jitendra Bhandari and Likhitha Mankali and Mohammed Nabeel and Ozgur Sinanoglu and Ramesh Karri and Johann Knechtel},
      title = {Beware Your Standard Cells! On Their Role in Static Power Side-Channel Attacks},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2023/920},
      year = {2023},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
Note: In order to protect the privacy of readers, does not use cookies or embedded third party content.