Journal of Computer Science and Technology ›› 2019, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (5): 1079-1095.doi: 10.1007/s11390-019-1961-5

Special Issue: Computer Networks and Distributed Computing

• Computer Networks and Distributed Computing • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Side-Channel Analysis for the Authentication Protocols of CDMA Cellular Networks

Chi Zhang1, Jun-Rong Liu1,2, Da-Wu Gu1,*, Distinguished Member, CCF, Member, ACM, Wei-Jia Wang3, Xiang-Jun Lu1, Zheng Guo1,2, Hai-Ning Lu1,4   

  1. 1 School of Electronic Information and Electrical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, China;
    2 ZhiXun Crypto Testing and Evaluation Technology Co., Ltd., Shanghai 200240, China;
    3 Crypto Group, Electrical Engineering Department, Institute of Information and Communication Technologies Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve B-1348, Belgium;
    4 Shanghai Viewsource Information Science and Technology Co., Ltd, Shanghai 200240, China
  • Received:2018-10-25 Revised:2019-07-28 Online:2019-08-31 Published:2019-08-31
  • Contact: Da-Wu Gu
  • About author:Chi Zhang received his B.S. degree in computer science and technology from Southeast University, Nanjing, in 2014. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at School of Electronic Information and Electrical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai. His research interests include hardware security, signal processing, and machine learning for side-channel analysis.
  • Supported by:
    This work was supported by State Grid Science and Technology Project of China under Grant No. 546816190003.

Time-division multiple access (TDMA) and code-division multiple access (CDMA) are two technologies used in digital cellular networks. The authentication protocols of TDMA networks have been proven to be vulnerable to side-channel analysis (SCA), giving rise to a series of powerful SCA-based attacks against unprotected subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. CDMA networks have two authentication protocols, cellular authentication and voice encryption (CAVE) based authentication protocol and authentication and key agreement (AKA) based authentication protocol, which are used in different phases of the networks. However, there has been no SCA attack for these two protocols so far. In this paper, in order to figure out if the authentication protocols of CDMA networks are sufficiently secure against SCA, we investigate the two existing protocols and their cryptographic algorithms. We find the side-channel weaknesses of the two protocols when they are implemented on embedded systems. Based on these weaknesses, we propose specific attack strategies to recover their authentication keys for the two protocols, respectively. We verify our strategies on an 8-bit microcontroller and a real-world SIM card, showing that the authentication keys can be fully recovered within a few minutes with a limited number of power measurements. The successful experiments demonstrate the correctness and the effectiveness of our proposed strategies and prove that the unprotected implementations of the authentication protocols of CDMA networks cannot resist SCA.

Key words: authentication protocol; cellular authentication and voice encryption (CAVE); code-division multiple access (CDMA); secure hash algorithm 1 (SHA-1); side-channel analysis;

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