Hertzbleed - a new breed of side-channel attack

published on 2022/06/16

Hertzbleed is a new family of side-channel attacks: frequency side channels. In the worst case, these attacks can allow an attacker to extract cryptographic keys from remote servers that were previously believed to be secure.

Hertzbleed takes advantage of our experiments showing that, under certain circumstances, the dynamic frequency scaling of modern x86 processors depends on the data being processed. This means that, on modern processors, the same program can run at a different CPU frequency (and therefore take a different wall time) when computing, for example, 2022 + 23823 compared to 2022 + 24436.

Hertzbleed is a real, and practical, threat to the security of cryptographic software. We have demonstrated how a clever attacker can use a novel chosen-ciphertext attack against SIKE to perform full key extraction via remote timing, despite SIKE being implemented as “constant time”.