Fault Injection as an Oscilloscope: Fault Correlation Analysis

  • Albert Spruyt
  • Alyssa Milburn Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Łukasz Chmielewski Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Keywords: Fault Injection, Fault Propagation, Correlation Power Analysis, Side-Channel Analysis


Fault Injection (FI) attacks have become a practical threat to modern cryptographic implementations. Such attacks have recently focused more on exploitation of implementation-centric and device-specific properties of the faults. In this paper, we consider the parallel between SCA attacks and FI attacks; specifically, that many FI attacks rely on the data-dependency of activation and propagation of a fault, and SCA attacks similarly rely on data-dependent power usage. In fact, these are so closely related that we show that existing SCA attacks can be directly applied in a purely FI setting, by translating power FI results to generate FI ‘probability traces’ as an analogue of power traces. We impose only the requirements of the equivalent SCA attack (e.g., knowledge of the input plaintext for CPA on the first round), along with a way to observe the status of the target (whether or not it has failed and been “muted” after a fault). We also analyse existing attacks such as Fault Template Analysis in the light of this parallel, and discuss the limitations of our methodology. To demonstrate that our attacks are practical, we first show that SPA can be used to recover RSA private exponents using FI attacks. Subsequently, we show the generic nature of our attacks by performing DPA on AES after applying FI attacks to several different targets (with AVR, 32-bit ARM and RISC-V CPUs), using different software on each target, and do so with a low-cost (i.e., less than $50) power fault injection setup. We call this technique Fault Correlation Analysis (FCA), since we perform CPA on fault probability traces. To show that this technique is not limited to software, we also present FCA results against the hardware AES engine supported by one of our targets. Our results show that even without access to the ciphertext (e.g., where an FI redundancy countermeasure is in place, or where ciphertext is simply not exposed to an attacker in any circumstance) and in the presence of light jitter, FCA attacks can successfully recover keys on each of these targets.

How to Cite
Spruyt, A., Milburn, A., & Chmielewski, Łukasz. (2020). Fault Injection as an Oscilloscope: Fault Correlation Analysis. IACR Transactions on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems, 2021(1), 192-216. https://doi.org/10.46586/tches.v2021.i1.192-216