Side-channel power, the new security front

Power analysis may be a way to secure devices on the internet of things

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Side channels used to be avenues for cyber attacks. Today, one side channel has been elevated to a new front line for cyber defense, and it may go on to be a bulwark for the internet of things (IoT).

"The limited testing we have done has been very successful," says Joe Cordaro, engineer at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C.

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Cordaro is using a system that monitors a system's power side channel -- in other words, measures and analyzes the power consumed by any given device for the sake of ensuring security. His in-lab tests have looked for abnormalities in the functioning of programmable logic controllers.

Side channels are forms of information that a system generates as a side effect of its operations, such as radio emissions, sounds, variations in the time needed to perform certain operations and even error messages. In the past, this information was often used in attempts to break a system's security -- for instance, by helping to reconstruct encryption keys or passwords.

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