Paper 2024/072

1/0 Shades of UC: Photonic Side-Channel Analysis of Universal Circuits

Dev M. Mehta, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Mohammad Hashemi, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Domenic Forte, University of Florida
Shahin Tajik, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Fatemeh Ganji, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A universal circuit (UC) can be thought of as a programmable circuit that can simulate any circuit up to a certain size by specifying its secret configuration bits. UCs have been incorporated into various applications, such as private function evaluation (PFE). Recently, studies have attempted to formalize the concept of semiconductor intellectual property (IP) protection in the context of UCs. This is despite the observations made in theory and practice that, in reality, the adversary may obtain additional information about the secret when executing cryptographic protocols. This paper aims to answer the question of whether UCs leak information unintentionally, which can be leveraged by the adversary to disclose the configuration bits. In this regard, we propose the first photon emission analysis against UCs relying on computer vision-based approaches. We demonstrate that the adversary can utilize a cost-effective solution to take images to be processed by off-the-shelf algorithms to extract configuration bits. We examine the efficacy of our method in two scenarios: (1) the design is small enough to be captured in a single image during the attack phase, and (2) multiple images should be captured to launch the attack by deploying a divide-and-conquer strategy. To evaluate the effectiveness of our attack, we use metrics commonly applied in side-channel analysis, namely rank and success rate. By doing so, we show that our profiled photon emission analysis achieves a success rate of 1 by employing a few templates (concretely, only 18 images were used as templates).

Available format(s)
Attacks and cryptanalysis
Publication info
Published by the IACR in TCHES 2024
Side-channel analysisPhoton emission microscopyUniversal circuitsFPGA.
Contact author(s)
dmmehta2 @ wpi edu
mhashemi @ wpi edu
dforte @ ece ufl edu
stajik @ wpi edu
fganji @ wpi edu
2024-04-17: revised
2024-01-17: received
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs


      author = {Dev M. Mehta and Mohammad Hashemi and Domenic Forte and Shahin Tajik and Fatemeh Ganji},
      title = {1/0 Shades of UC: Photonic Side-Channel Analysis of Universal Circuits},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2024/072},
      year = {2024},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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