Side-Channel Analysis and Cryptography Engineering : Getting OpenSSL Closer to Constant-Time
Pereida Garcia, Cesar (2022)
Pereida Garcia, Cesar
Tieto- ja sähkötekniikan tohtoriohjelma - Doctoral Programme in Computing and Electrical Engineering
Informaatioteknologian ja viestinnän tiedekunta - Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences
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As side-channel attacks reached general purpose PCs and started to be more practical for attackers to exploit, OpenSSL adopted in 2005 a flagging mechanism to protect against SCA. The opt-in mechanism allows to flag secret values, such as keys, with the BN_FLG_CONSTTIME flag. Whenever a flag is checked and detected, the library changes its execution flow to SCA-secure functions that are slower but safer, protecting these secret values from being leaked. This mechanism favors performance over security, it is error-prone, and is obscure for most library developers, increasing the potential for side-channel vulnerabilities. This dissertation presents an extensive side-channel analysis of OpenSSL and criticizes its fragile flagging mechanism. This analysis reveals several flaws affecting the library resulting in multiple side-channel attacks, improved cache-timing attack techniques, and a new side channel vector. The first part of this dissertation introduces the main topic and the necessary related work, including the microarchitecture, the cache hierarchy, and attack techniques; then it presents a brief troubled history of side-channel attacks and defenses in OpenSSL, setting the stage for the related publications. This dissertation includes seven original publications contributing to the area of side-channel analysis, microarchitecture timing attacks, and applied cryptography. From an SCA perspective, the results identify several vulnerabilities and flaws enabling protocol-level attacks on RSA, DSA, and ECDSA, in addition to full SCA of the SM2 cryptosystem. With respect to microarchitecture timing attacks, the dissertation presents a new side-channel vector due to port contention in the CPU execution units. And finally, on the applied cryptography front, OpenSSL now enjoys a revamped code base securing several cryptosystems against SCA, favoring a secure-by-default protection against side-channel attacks, instead of the insecure opt-in flagging mechanism provided by the fragile BN_FLG_CONSTTIME flag.
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