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Efficient Second-Order Masked Software Implementations of Ascon in Theory and Practice

June 21, 2023


Robert Primas - Graz University of Technology


In this paper, we present efficient protected software implementations of the authenticated cipher Ascon, the recently announced winner of the NIST standardization process for lightweight cryptography. Our implementations target theoretical and practical security against second-order power analysis attacks. First, we propose an efficient second-order extension of a previously presented first-order masking of the Keccak S-box that does not require online randomness. The extension itself is inspired by a previously presented second-order masking of an AND-XOR construction. We then discuss implementation tricks that further improve performance and reduce the chance of unintended combination of shares during the execution of masked software on microprocessors. This allows us to retain the theoretic protection orders of masking in practice with low performance overhead, which we also confirm via TVLA on ARM microprocessors. The formal correctness of our designs is additionally verified using Coco on the netlist of a RISC-V Ibex core. We benchmark our masked software designs on 32-bit ARM and RISC-V microprocessor platforms. On both platforms, we can perform Ascon-128 authenticated encryption with a throughput of about 300 or 550 cycles/byte when operating on 2 or 3 shares. When utilizing a leveled implementation technique, the throughput of our masked implementations generally increases to about 90 cycles/byte. We publish our masked software implementations together with a generic software framework for evaluating performance and side-channel resistance of various masked cryptographic implementations.

Presented at

Lightweight Cryptography Workshop 2023 [Virtual]

Event Details



Related Topics

Security and Privacy: lightweight cryptography

Created June 20, 2023, Updated June 22, 2023