X-Volt: Joint Tuning of Driver Strengths and Supply Voltages Against Power Side-Channel Attacks

Saideep Sreekumar, Mohammed Ashraf, Mohammed Nabeel, Ozgur Sinanoglu, Johann Knechtel

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


Power side-channel (PSC) attacks are well-known threats to sensitive hardware like advanced encryption standard (AES) crypto cores. Given the significant impact of supply voltages (VCCs) on power profiles, various countermeasures based on VCC tuning have been proposed, among other defense strategies. Driver strengths of cells, however, have been largely overlooked, despite having direct and significant impact on power profiles as well. For the first time, we thoroughly explore the prospects of jointly tuning driver strengths and VCCs as novel working principle for PSC-Attack countermeasures. Toward this end, we take the following steps: 1) we develop a simple circuit-level scheme for tuning; 2) we implement a CAD flow for design-Time evaluation of ASICs, enabling security assessment of ICs before tape-out; 3) we implement a correlation power analysis (CPA) framework for thorough and comparative security analysis; 4) we conduct an extensive experimental study of a regular AES design, implemented in ASIC as well as FPGA fabrics, under various tuning scenarios; 5) we summarize design guidelines for secure and efficient joint tuning. In our experiments, we observe that runtime tuning is more effective than static tuning, for both ASIC and FPGA implementations. For the latter, the AES core is rendered > 11.8x (i.e., at least 11.8 times) as resilient as the untuned baseline design. Layout overheads can be considered acceptable, with, e.g., around +10% critical-path delay for the most resilient tuning scenario in FPGA. We release source codes for our methodology, as well as artifacts from the experimental study in[13].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationISPD 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 International Symposium on Physical Design
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781450399784
StatePublished - Mar 26 2023
Event32nd ACM International Symposium on Physical Design, ISPD 2023 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Mar 26 2023Mar 29 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Symposium on Physical Design


Conference32nd ACM International Symposium on Physical Design, ISPD 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online


  • Application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC)
  • Computer-Aided design (CAD)
  • Correlation power analysis (CPA)
  • Driver strength
  • Field-programmable gate array (FPGA)
  • Power side-channel (PSC)
  • Power simulation, power measure
  • Supply voltage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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