Exploiting the Physical Disparity: Side-Channel Attacks on Memory Encryption

Thomas Unterluggauer, Stefan Mangard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


Memory and disk encryption is a common measure to protect sensitive information in memory from adversaries with physical access. However, physical access also comes with the risk of physical attacks. As these may pose a threat to memory confidentiality, this paper investigates contemporary memory and disk encryption schemes and their implementations with respect to Differential Power Analysis (DPA) and Differential Fault Analysis (DFA). It shows that DPA and DFA recover the keys of all the investigated schemes, including the tweakable block ciphers XEX and XTS. This paper also verifies the feasibility of such attacks in practice. Using the EM side channel, a DPA on the disk encryption employed
within the ext4 file system is shown to reveal the used master key on a Zynq Z-7010 system on chip. The results suggest that memory and disk encryption secure against physical attackers is at least four times more expensive.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConstructive Side-Channel Analysis and Secure Design - COSADE 2016
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventInternational Workshop on Constructive Side-Channel Analysis and Secure Design - Graz, Austria
Duration: 14 Apr 201615 Apr 2016

Publication series



ConferenceInternational Workshop on Constructive Side-Channel Analysis and Secure Design


  • memory encryption
  • side-channel attacks
  • DPA
  • fault analysis
  • DFA
  • power analysis
  • ext4

Fields of Expertise

  • Information, Communication & Computing


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