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Power-analysis attack

Power-analysis attack

(also Differential power analysis)

Power-analysis attack definition

A power-analysis attack is a breach where hackers examine the electric energy used by a device while it performs cryptographic or other sensitive computations. This is done to find sensitive information such as passwords or encryption keys, as power consumption of a device can provide information about internal operations and computations it is performing.

See also: Side-channel attack

Examples of power analysis attack

  1. Password guessing. Hackers analyze the small changes in power usage when a user types a password. They can infer which keys are pressed based on these variations, potentially revealing the security key.
  2. Encryption key extraction. By observing the power fluctuations during the encryption process, attackers can deduce parts of its key. Criminals can then crack protected data.
  3. Smart cards. Attackers examine the power consumption patterns of smart cards during authentication processes. This helps them deduce information stored on the card, like PINs or private keys.
  4. Cryptographic operations. When a device performs cryptographic operations like signing or decrypting data, the power used varies. Hackers can exploit these fluctuations to extract sensitive cryptographic details.
  5. Reverse engineering. Hackers reverse engineer software or hardware by monitoring the power usage as they feed different inputs. They can uncover how the device’s internal operations work and reveal vulnerabilities.

Further reading

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