Embedded Security

The department for Embedded Security is interested in all aspects of cryptography and security in “devices”, e.g., handhelds such as the iPod or Blackberry, smart cards, RFID tags but also larger systems like cars. Our research can be divided in the following general areas:


Implementation Attacks

Since the late 1990s it has become obvious that it is not sufficient that a cryptographic algorithm is merely mathematically secure. It is often fairly easy to break (i.e., to extract secret keys) crypto applications using physical attacks, for instance by monitoring the power consumption of a smart card, or by injecting faults via the power supply. Our work deals with the theory and experimental realization of implementation attacks, including passive side channel attacks and fault injection attacks.

Security Analysis of real-world systems

In order to design a highly secure system, it is indispensable that an application is investigated with respect to vulnerabilities. Hence, attempting to “break” a system is an important part of modern security engineering. We systematically research whether real-world systems can be broken, and with which effort. The methods we use include implementation attacks as well as classical cryptanalysis. The lessons we learn from those investigate greatly help to improve further products and systems.

High-speed Cryptography

Highly efficient implementations of crypto algorithms are often required in practice, for instance in high-speed computer networks or in mobile networks with tight real-time requirements (e.g., for car2car communication). Because public-key algorithms such as RSA or elliptic curves are extremely arithmetic intensive, high performance implementations are a challenging research problem. In addition to widely used ciphers, we also investigate the implementation properties of future algorithms, e.g., hyperelliptic curves or post-quantum cryptography.
One focus of our research is on hardware architectures for symmetric and public-key algorithms. In addition to computer architectures for ASICs, we have extensive research efforts related to FPGAs and crypto algorithms. The other focus is on high-speed realizations in software. In addition to general-purpose CPUs (e.g., from Intel or AMD), we also investigate crypto algorithms on “unconventional” processors such as graphic cards (GPUs) or the Cell Processor which can be found in Sony’s PlayStation.

Emerging Embedded Security Applications

In the past, the use of cryptography and security was mainly confined to specific applications such as banking or government communication. Nowadays, due to the advent of ubiquitous computing, many, many new applications and systems have security needs. Examples include cars, medical devices or heavy machinery. We research security for such applications from a systems level and from a crypto-algorithm level. We have major efforts in the area of IT security in cars. For instance, in 2003 we started the conference series escar – Embedded Security in Cars.

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