Post quantum encryption will show power vulnerabilities

June 19, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Dr Helena Handschuh, one of five Fellows at Rambus, talks about its post quantum encryption algorithm and how it can be protected from side channel attacks.
Rambus is working on a post quantum encryption algorithm and how it can be protected from side channel attacks. Dr Helena Handschuh, one of five Fellows at the company, talks to Nick Flaherty

Post quantum encryption will change the vulnerabilities of devices to side channel attacks and power system design.

Many types of encryption are vulnerable to attack by quantum computers, so the industry has been looking at what kind of algorithms will not be vulnerable. NIST in the US is currently running a competition to find the best algorithms for post quantum encryption. The initial list of 69 contributions cnsidered to be complete has been reduced to 26 for closer examination over this summer, with two or three expected to emerge as the preferred solutions.

Rambus is working on one of the algorithms being considered, called the Three Bears, which has a range of performacne levels. “We are hopeful it will move to the next level, when we would talk with other vendors,” said Dr Helena Handschuh, Security Technologies Fellow at Rambus (above). “We have an implementation of it for the submission and then we would see how we integrate it into IP. We have started prototyping other primitives, looking at performance,” she said. “Not all of them require changes in hardware but all of them used symmetric primitives that are easier to accelerate in hardware.

While the hardware may not change from today's enryption algorithms, Rambus has also been looking at the implications of the new algorithms for side channel attacks, especially differential power analysis (DPA). This uses knowledge of the power consumption captured from the phiyical chip to work out how data is moved between registers and so discover the secret encryption key.

“Once the algorithms are implemented you need to make sure the implementation doesn’t leave it vulnerable. So you need to understand how the algorithms are implemented and why the hardware would leak more or less,” she said.  

“There’s much more mixing of asymmetric and symmetric primitives and that requires heavier conversions eg from arithmetic to Boolean.  There is also one particular element that is needed to verify your computation before transmitting

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