Timing attack on NEMS relay based design of AES

Samah Mohamed Saeed, Bodhisatwa Mazumdar, Sk Subidh Ali, Ozgur Sinanoglu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In deep submicron CMOS transistors, the static leakage current has become a significant contributor to power consumption with channel length and subthreshold voltage being continuously scaled down. Also, this increased leakage has recently led to the rise of side-channel attacks on CMOS based implementations. Nanoelectromechanical System (NEMS) relay technology is emerging as an alternative to CMOS with one of its most prominent advantages being the zero static leakage, providing an inherent defense against power side-channel attacks at the same time. On the other hand, this emerging technology introduces timing challenges in the design process; to minimize the timing delay of NEMS relays, binary decision diagram (BDD) based implementation is utilized to design combinational logic. What's important from a security perspective is that the timing delay of the BDD implementation of a NEMS relay based design is inherently input dependent. An adversary can therefore leverage the data dependency to identify secret information of the chip. We propose a timing delay based attack on NEMS relay based designs, use AES as a case study, and show that it can achieve a success rate of 1.0 for interconnect delay variations within a standard deviation of 0.0022. To the best of our knowledge, this paper is the first to expose an inherent security vulnerability of a NEMS relay based design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2015 IFIP/IEEE International Conference on Very Large Scale Integration, VLSI-SoC 2015
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781467391405
StatePublished - Oct 30 2015
Event23rd IFIP/IEEE International Conference on Very Large Scale Integration, VLSI-SoC 2015 - Daejeon, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Oct 5 2015Oct 7 2015

Publication series

NameIEEE/IFIP International Conference on VLSI and System-on-Chip, VLSI-SoC
ISSN (Print)2324-8432
ISSN (Electronic)2324-8440


Other23rd IFIP/IEEE International Conference on Very Large Scale Integration, VLSI-SoC 2015
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


  • AES
  • Binary decision diagram (BDD)
  • Nanoelectromechanical System (NEMS) relays
  • Security
  • Side-channel attack
  • Timing attack

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Software
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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