(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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.