Thwarting Electromagnetic Fault Injection Attack Utilizing Timing Attack Countermeasure

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Virginia Tech


The extent of embedded systems' role in modern life has continuously increased over the years. Moreover, embedded systems are assuming highly critical functions with security requirements more than ever before. Electromagnetic fault injection (EMFI) is an efficient class of physical attacks that can compromise the immunity of secure cryptographic algorithms. Despite successful EMFI attacks, the effects of electromagnetic injection on a processor are not well understood. This includes lack of solid knowledge about how EMFI affects the circuit and deviates it from proper functionality. Also, effects of EM glitches on the global networks of a chip such as power, clock and reset network are not known. We believe to properly model EMFI and develop effective countermeasures, a deeper understanding of the EM effect on a chip is needed. In this thesis, we present a bottom-up analysis of EMFI effects on a RISC microprocessor. We study these effects at three levels: at the wire-level, at the chip-network level, and at the gate-level considering parameters such as EM-injection location and timing. We conclude that EMFI induces local timing errors implying current timing attack detection and prevention techniques can be adapted to overcome EMFI. To further validate our hypothesis, we integrate a configurable timing sensor into our microprocessor to evaluate its effectiveness against EMFI.



Electromagnetic Fault Injection, Countermeasure, Attack