Research project: Hardware Health Monitoring using side-channel information

Real time precision monitoring with QVL technology

Fault and failure prevention is becoming a very important area of research as complexity of systems grows thus resulting in unavoidable bugs in design. At the same time, internal test procedures become inefficient resulting in the fault not being diagnosed in good time. This results in failure of the system and consequently high repair cost. While diagnosing it in time could save the repair bill. This becomes even more important for automotive, aerospace and industrial applications where failure could result in substantial mechanical damage and huge economical impact.

Cyber threat has been brought to the attention in the recent years by appearance of Stuxnet virus on the Internet. It was the first example of how software malicious code can damage real physical objects. Recently it was demonstrated that modern cars are vulnerable to attacks over the phone. In all cases, proper diagnostic and active monitoring could prevent damage or reduce it to minimum. Not only malicious activity can cause some problems. Various mechanical and electrical systems fail from time to time. The most important task is to detect the fault before it is too late.

The solution to proper diagnostic of failures could be in the way used in many areas to monitor the operation of mechanical systems. That is done by looking at side-channel information through emissions of sound, mechanical vibration, deformation, acceleration, position, timing and others. If the behaviour model or symptoms of previous faults are known then it can be spotted at an early stage.

However, here come some implementation problems. How is to effectively measure all the information leaked through side channels and analyse it. Not only some research work has to be carried out to determine dependency in the observed leakages for all kinds of failures, but effective sensor technology is the paramount. That is where the new innovative QVL technology comes to hand which is several orders of magnitude more efficient than currently used technologies. It is developed and patented by Quo Vadis Labs ( and significantly more sensitive than existing digital signal processing techniques.

The aim of the research project is to develop new more efficient evaluation technology for side-channel analysis and to demonstrate its effectiveness on real systems.

When to expect first results?

This project uses innovative QVL probe with patented technology which allows significant breakthrough in signal detection by picking up even tiny variations in data flow. This technology will become a very good and efficient analysis tool for various manufacturers who are cautious about qualities of their product.

The original QVL project was anounced to public at CHES2010 Rump session on 19 August 2010, Santa Barbara, USA: SLIDES

QVL that sponsors the project and owns the intellectual property has recently updated its website ( Now you can contact them directly with your questions. Some fascinating results were achieved with QVL technology that employs new design. It was prototyped and successfully tested on some secure chips. For more information please visit The results will be presented on a closed briefing in the late August. First public announcement of some results will likely be made in September.

In the meantime I will keep updating on major events and achievements in that area.

Please stay tuned.

Sergei Skorobogatov <Sergei.Skorobogatov (at)>
created 25-08-2011 -- last modified 29-08-2011 --