Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Security evaluation at design time for cryptographic hardware

Huiyun Li

April 2006, 81 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted December 2005 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Trinity Hall.


Consumer security devices are becoming ubiquitous, from pay-TV through mobile phones, PDA, prepayment gas meters to smart cards. There are many ongoing research efforts to keep these devices secure from opponents who try to retrieve key information by observation or manipulation of the chip’s components. In common industrial practise, it is after the chip has been manufactured that security evaluation is performed. Due to design time oversights, however, weaknesses are often revealed in fabricated chips. Furthermore, post manufacture security evaluation is time consuming, error prone and very expensive. This evokes the need of “design time security evaluation” techniques in order to identify avoidable mistakes in design.

This thesis proposes a set of “design time security evaluation” methodologies covering the well-known non-invasive side-channel analysis attacks, such as power analysis and electromagnetic analysis attacks. The thesis also covers the recently published semi-invasive optical fault injection attacks. These security evaluation technologies examine the system under test by reproducing attacks through simulation and observing its subsequent response.

The proposed “design time security evaluation” methodologies can be easily implemented into the standard integrated circuit design flow, requiring only commonly used EDA tools. So it adds little non-recurrent engineering (NRE) cost to the chip design but helps identify the security weaknesses at an early stage, avoids costly silicon re-spins, and helps succeed in industrial evaluation for faster time-to-market.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Li, Huiyun},
  title = 	 {{Security evaluation at design time for cryptographic
  year = 	 2006,
  month = 	 apr,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-665}