Beyond Cache Attacks: Exploiting the Bus-based Communication Structure for Powerful On-Chip Microarchitectural Attacks
System-on-Chips (SoCs) are a key enabling technology for the Internet-of-Things (IoT), a hyper-connected world where on- and inter-chip communication is ubiquitous. SoCs usually integrate cryptographic hardware cores for confidentiality and authentication services. However, these components are prone to implementation attacks. During the operation of a cryptographic core, the secret key may passively be inferred through cache observations. Access-driven attacks exploiting these observations are therefore a vital threat to SoCs operating in IoT environments. Previous works have shown the feasibility of these attacks in the SoC context. Yet, the SoC communication structure can be used to further improve access-based cache attacks. The communication attacks are not as well-understood as other micro-architectural attacks. It is important to raise the awareness of SoC designers of such a threat. To this end, we present four contributions. First, we demonstrate an improved Prime+Probe attack on four different AES-128 implementations (original transformation tables, T0-Only, T2KB, and S-Box). As a novelty, this attack exploits the collisions of the bus-based SoC communication to further increase its efficiency. Second, we explore the impact of preloading on the efficiency of our communication-optimized attack. Third, we integrate three countermeasures (shuffling, mini-tables, and Time-Division Multiple Access (TDMA) bus arbitration) and evaluate their impact on the attack. Although shuffling and mini-tables countermeasures were proposed in previous work, their application as countermeasures against the bus-based attack was not studied before. In addition, TDMA as a countermeasure for bus-based attacks is an original contribution of this work. Fourth, we further discuss the implications of our work in the SoC design and its perspective with the new cryptographic primitives proposed in the ongoing National Institute of Standard and Technology Lightweight Cryptography competition. The results show that our improved communication-optimized attack is efficient, speeding up full key recovery by up to 400 times when compared to the traditional Prime+Probe technique. Moreover, the protection techniques are feasible and effectively mitigate the proposed improved attack.