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Tamper-resistant ICs for Critical Infrastructures


The secure implementation of cryptographic algorithms is a research field of high importance and significant impact. From a pure mathematical point of view all currently used standardized crypto-algorithms are secure. Here the point is that the security of these algorithms depends only on keeping the keys secret. Thus, the ultimate goal of an attacker is to reveal these keys. For mathematical assessment the assumptions are that the attacker knows the algorithms, the input data (plain text) and the output data (cipher text). Getting the key just from this information is a very challenging and time consuming task. But these assumptions can be translated into the assumption that the attacker has no physical access to the ICs that performs the cryptographic algorithm.


But running a certain algorithm on an ICs leads to several observable physical effects. An attacker can measure the analog parameters of the IC e.g. its power consumption, execution time of certain operations etc. or the attacker can measure physical parameters in the environment of the ICs such as electromagnetic radiation, heat dissipation, optical effects etc. All this additional information greatly simplifies the task of the attacker since now a brute force attack (i.e. trial and error guessing) of the key is no longer needed instead the measurement values or intermediate result of the crypto-processing are used  to extract the key. Such an attack exploits shortcomings of the implementation of the algorithm instead of attacking the algorithm itself.



IHP`s Contribution

  • Design and implementation of energy efficient hardware accelerators for crypto graphic operation considering their tamper-resistancy
  • Researching of approaches to hinder side channel attacks using technological means, e.g. use of highly reactive materials
  • Analysis and assessment of crypto-implementations with respect to tamper-resistancy





This work is funded by the ministry of “Ministry of Sciences, Research and Cultural Affairs (MWFK)“ from resources of the European Social Fund (ESF) and of the state  Brandenburg.


European Social Fund - Investment in your Future



The building and the infrastructure of the IHP were funded by the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, funds of the Federal Government and also funds of the Federal State of Brandenburg.