Eran Tromer - Workshop on Secure Implementation of Post-Quantum Cryptography

Physical Side Channel Attacks on PCs


Can secret information be extracted from personal computers by measuring their physical properties from the outside? What would it take to extract whole keys from such fast and complex devices? We survey numerous physical attack channels, including:

  • Acoustic key extraction, using microphones to record the high-pitched noise caused by vibration of electronic circuit components during decryption.
  • Electric key extraction exploiting fluctuations in the "ground" electric potential of computers. An attacker can measure this signal by touching the computer's chassis, or the shield on the remote end of Ethernet, VGA or USB cables. 
  • Electromagnetic key extraction, using a cheap radio to non-intrusively attack laptop computers.

Widely-deployed implementations of many cryptographic algorithms, are vulnerable to these attacks, running on common hardware such as laptops and mobile phones. We will discuss the attack principles and some countermeasures.

Joint works with Daniel Genkin, Adi Shamir, Lev Pachmanov, Itamar Pipman and Yuval Yarom.
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