annotate libtomcrypt/notes/tech0002.txt @ 971:763979a9c1f1 coverity

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date Tue, 19 Aug 2014 23:36:46 +0800
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1 Tech Note 0002
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2 How to avoid non-intrusive timing attacks with online computations
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3 Tom St Denis
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5 Introduction
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6 ------------
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8 A timing attack is when an attacker can observe a side channel of the device (in this case time). In this tech note
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9 we consider only non-intrusive timing attacks with respect to online computations. That is an attacker can
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10 determine when a computation (such as a public key encryption) begins and ends but cannot observe the device
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11 directly. This is specifically important for applications which transmit data via a public network.
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13 Consider a Diffie-Hellman encryption which requires the sender to make up a public key "y = g^x mod p". Libtomcrypt
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14 uses the MPI bignum library to perform the operation. The time it takes to compute y is controlled by the number
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15 of 1 bits in the exponent 'x'. To a large extent there will be the same number of squaring operations. "1" bits in
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16 the exponent require the sender to perform a multiplication. This means to a certain extent an attacker can
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17 determine not only the magnitude of 'x' but the number of one bits. With this information the attacker cannot directly
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18 learn the key used. However, good cryptography mandates the close scrutiny of any practical side channel.
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20 Similar logic applies to the other various routines. Fortunately for this case there is a simple solution. First,
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21 determine the maximum time the particular operation can require. For instance, on an Athlon 1.53Ghz XP processor a
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22 DH-768 encryption requires roughly 50 milliseconds. Take that time and round it up. Now place a delay after the call.
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24 For example,
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26 void demo(void) {
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27 clock_t t1;
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29 // get initial clock
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30 t1 = clock();
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32 // some PK function
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34 // now delay
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35 while (clock() < (t1 + 100));
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37 // transmit data...
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39 }
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41 This code has the effect of taking at least 100 ms always. In effect someone analyzing the traffic will see that the
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42 operations always take a fixed amount of time. Since no two platforms are the same this type of fix has not been
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43 incorporated into libtomcrypt (nor is it desired for many platforms). This requires on the developers part to profile
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44 the code to determine the delays required.
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46 Note that this "quick" fix has no effect against an intrusive attacker. For example, power consumption will drop
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47 significantly in the loop after the operation. However, this type of fix is more important to secure the user of the
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48 application/device. For example, a user placing an order online won't try to cheat themselves by cracking open their
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49 device and performing side-channel cryptanalysis. An attacker over a network might try to use the timing information
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50 against the user.
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