Power Consumption Attacks

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A device's power usage is dependent upon the amount and type of processing being done at any given time. Graphing this over a period of time can offer a great deal of insight into the nature of the work being done, and under certain circumstances even give clues as to the size and possible amount of data being processed. Typically, such attacks are more useful against single-purpose embedded systems, such as smartcards, but the overall principle should not be discounted for any system that requires absolute security.

The 1998 paper in Advances in Cryptology, by P. Kocher, J. Jaffe, and B. Jun, "Differential Power Analysis," demonstrates such an attack against the DES encryption method on a smartcard. The attack successfully extracted large amounts of information from the power consumption data.

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