International Association for Cryptologic Research

International Association
for Cryptologic Research


Qianhong Wu


On Efficient and Secure Code-based Masking: A Pragmatic Evaluation
Code-based masking is a highly generalized type of masking schemes, which can be instantiated into specific cases by assigning different encoders. It captivates by its side-channel resistance against higher-order attacks and the potential to withstand fault injection attacks. However, similar to other algebraically-involved masking schemes, code-based masking is burdened with expensive computational overhead as well. To mitigate such cost and make it efficient, we contribute to several improvements on the original scheme proposed by Wang et al. in TCHES 2020. Specifically, we devise a computationally friendly encoder and accordingly accelerate masked gadgets to leverage efficient implementations. In addition, we highlight that the amortization technique introduced by Wang et al. does not always lead to efficient implementations as expected, but actually decreases the efficiency in some cases. From the perspective of practical security, we carry out a comprehensive evaluation on the concrete security of code-based masking in the real world. On one hand, we select three representative variations of code-based masking as targets for a complete evaluation. On the other hand, we aim at security assessment of both encoding and computations to investigate whether the state-of-the-art computational framework for code-based masking reaches the security of the corresponding encoding. By leveraging both leakage assessment tools and side-channel attacks, we verify the existence of “security order amplification” in practice and validate the reliability of the leakage quantification method proposed by Cheng et al. in TCHES 2021. In addition, we also study the security degradation caused by the “cost amortization” technique and redundancy of code-based masking. We identify a security bottleneck in the gadgets computations which limits the whole masked implementation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that allows us to narrow down the gap between the theoretical security order under probing model (sometimes with simulation experiments) and the concrete side-channel security level of protected implementations by code-based masking in practice.