Research Visit: University of Bristol

I had an opportunity to visit for a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) at University of Bristol during week 16 (18.04-22.04). The visit was funded by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action IC1403 Cryptacus. The title was “Side channel Analysis of Complex SoC systems”. Side channel analysis is a technique that tries to find security vulnerabilities in both hardware and software using  non-conventional methods, by analyzing side channel properties of a device such as power consumption, heat dissipation, electromagnetic radiations, cache leaks. This is a very interesting and active research area. I am involved in side channel analysis work with Dr. Billy Brumley who also helped me with the arrangements of the visit.

University of Bristol’s Cryptography and Information Security group is very well known for its research in the area. Thanks to Dr. Dan Page for hosting the visit. He is a senior lecturer at the Computer Science Department and affiliated with the cryptography group. He is actively involved in applied cryptography research, including hardware and software implementations and side channel analysis. Apart from this, he is a very nice person and fun to work with.

During my 5 day stay at Bristol, I mainly focused on learning the streamlined methods for doing Electromagnetic (EM) Side Channel Analysis. The device under attack was a Beagle Bone Black System-on-Chip. They had a very nice setup for performing side channel experiments. I was able to use their setup to analyze how the EM side channel would react while running different cryptographic primitives. I also got a chance to see the demo of their published work in the related area. The demo was followed by some hands-on knowledge of their attack which was very cool and interesting to find how their side channel analysis technique actually works which I read in there paper. They were very open in sharing their research work.

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I also participated in one of their study groups, where everyone spoke about their research work. It was a great way to meet and interact with other people. There is some really awesome research work happening in the group especially on symmetric key ciphers such as AES. They gave me an opportunity to speak about what I have been working on. Everyone there was very welcoming.

Bristol is vibrant city with some rich historical background, and it took me couple of hours to walk around the city, with some good sight-seeing experience. It is well known for its high tech industry.

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All in all it was a great trip, and I brought some very useful knowledge back home. I think such trips are really helpful for interaction with other researchers and getting up to date with new research methods. The trip also opened a way for possible research collaboration in the future. In my experience, it helped me grasp new knowledge, meet some good minds and look at the things from a different perspective.

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