FinFET-based power management for improved DPA resistance with low overhead

Zhang Meng, Niraj K. Jha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Differential power analysis (DPA) is a side-channel attack that statistically analyzes the power consumption of a cryptographic system to obtain secret information. This type of attack is well known as a major threat to information security. Effective solutions with low energy and area cost for improved DPA resistance are urgently needed, especially for energy-constrained modern devices that are often in the physical proximity of attackers. This article presents a novel countermeasure against DPA attacks on smart cards and other digital ICs based on FinFETs, an emerging substitute for bulk CMOS at the 22nm technology node and beyond. We exploit the adaptive power management characteristic of FinFETs to generate a high level of noise at critical moments in the execution of a cryptosystem to thwart DPA attacks. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed countermeasure by developing a simple power model for estimating DPA spikes. We then validate the model by carrying out DPA attacks on an ASIC implementation of the advanced encryption standard system via gate-level simulation. Both modeling and simulation-based experiment indicate that with the proposed countermeasure, even 8,000,000 power acquisitions are not sufficient to reveal the secret key. As opposed to other countermeasures presented in the literature, the proposed hardware design requires less than 1% increase in area and 15% increase in total energy consumption without any extra delay in the critical path. The proposed method is generic and can be applied to other encryption algorithms as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Back-gate biasing
  • Differential power analysis
  • FinFET
  • Noise insertion
  • Power estimation
  • Side-channel attacks


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