david wong

Hey ! I'm David, a security consultant at Cryptography Services, the crypto team of NCC Group . This is my blog about cryptography and security and other related topics that I find interesting.

DPA: Differential Power Analysis November 2014

Studying about smartcard there seem to be a lot about whitboxes to learn, since it is indeed a whitebox: the encryption/decryption that are done inside the cards can be analyzed since you own the card. Analysis are separated in different categories like non-intrusive and intrusive. Intrusive because for efficient analysis you would have to remove some part of the plastic covering the interesting parts and directly plug yourself on the chip. This is what Differential Power Analysis (DPA) do, it's a stronger kind of Simple Power Analaysis (SPA).

Kocher & al found out about this in 1998 and released a paper that is still very useful today: http://www.cryptography.com/public/pdf/DPA.pdf

The idea is to record the power consumption of the chip along multiple encryptions. You then obtain curves with pics that you can correlate to XORs operations being performed. You can guess what cipher is used, and where are the known rounds/operations of the cipher from the intensities of some peaks, and the periodicity of some patterns. In the paper they study DES which is still the state of the art for block ciphers then.

Looking at a big number of such curves, along with the messages (or ciphertexts) they encrypted, you can focus on one operation and one bit of the internal state to find out one bit of one of the subkey. One bit should affect the number of XORs being performed thus you should find a correlation between the bit you're looking for and the power consumption at one point. Repeat and find all the other ones. It's powerful because you only need to find one bit of the subkey, one after the other.

It's pretty hard to explain it without pictures (and a video would be even better, that's always something I have been wanting to do, if I dig deeper into it maybe I'll try that). But the basic idea is here, if you want more info check the original paper

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