On the ineffectiveness of internal encodings - Revisiting the DCA attack on white-box cryptography

Estuardo Alpirez Bock*, Chris Brzuska, Wil Michiels, Alexander Treff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The goal of white-box cryptography is to implement cryptographic algorithms securely in software in the presence of an adversary that has complete access to the software’s program code and execution environment. In particular, white-box cryptography needs to protect the embedded secret key from being extracted. Bos et al. (CHES 2016) introduced differential computational analysis (DCA), the first automated attack on white-box cryptography. The DCA attack performs a statistical analysis on execution traces. These traces contain information such as memory addresses or register values, that is collected via binary instrumentation tooling during the encryption process. The white-box implementations that were attacked by Bos et al., as well as white-box implementations that have been described in the literature, protect the embedded key by using internal encodings techniques introduced by Chow et al. (SAC 2002). Thereby, a combination of linear and non-liner nibble encodings is used to protect the secret key. In this paper we analyse the use of such internal encodings and prove rigorously that they are too weak to protect against DCA. We prove that the use of non-linear nibble encodings does not hide key dependent correlations, such that a DCA attack succeeds with high probability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplied Cryptography and Network Security
Subtitle of host publication16th International Conference, ACNS 2018, Proceedings
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventInternational Conference on Applied Cryptography and Network Security - Leuven, Belgium
Duration: 2 Jul 20184 Jul 2018
Conference number: 16

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume10892 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


ConferenceInternational Conference on Applied Cryptography and Network Security
Abbreviated titleACNS
Internet address


  • Differential computational analysis
  • Mixing bijections
  • Software execution traces
  • White-box cryptography


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