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Failure analysis techniques applied for Side Channel Analysis

Author: Erwin in 't Veld

Failure analysis techniques and their applicability for side channel analysis have been researched a lot. Question remained though how practical these methods are for a real life attack or security evaluation. Riscure conducted research that proved that a specific failure analysis method, Thermal Laser Stimulation, can be effective to recover key material.

Next to that Riscure research showed that this technique can be applied with a setup at a fraction of the costs compared to some of the academic research previously published.

Thermal Laser Stimulation can be used to induce the so-called Seebeck effect. This effect implies that a temperature difference between two semiconductor or metal nodes leads to a voltage difference on each side.

Riscure developed two new laser sources that can be used to apply the TLS technique. Both laser sources are very precise, single mode laser sources and operate at a wavelength of 1310nm or 1425nm. Next to that, new Riscure analysis modules have been developed to help analyze the results.

These laser sources, in combination with Riscure Laser Station 2 can be used to scan the surface of the chip and very accurately heat certain parts of the chip. The induced short-circuit current that can be caused by this heating can be measured and analyzed. This technique proved to be very effective on SRAM cells, giving the attacker access to the secret information (keys) stored in these cells since the measured current differs based on the value that is stored on an SRAM cell.

The following academic research gives extensive background information on the applied technology and the results achieved: TLS Academic research.

More information on TLS and the results that Riscure achieved was recently covered in a webinar. Click here to register and watch the recording.

Riscure will continue the research on other failure analysis methods during the course of 2021. Optical Beam Induced Current (OBIC), Laser Voltage Probing (LVP), Electro Optical Frequency Mapping (EOFM) and Photon Emission Analysis (PEM) are an important part of the Riscure Research Agenda.

Riscure devices to build a cost effective setup that can be used to apply Thermal Laser Stimulation are available as of now. Please contact your sales representative for inquiries.

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