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A near-instantaneous and non-invasive erasure design technique to protect sensitive data stored in secure SRAMs

Abstract : On-chip memories, and in particular SRAMs, are among the most critical components in terms of data security because they might contain sensitive data such as secret keys. Whenever a tampering event is detected, one should be able to erase efficiently and rapidly the full content of a memory holding such sensitive data, but current solutions based on simple power-off lead to very long erasure times. In this paper, we present a non-invasive design technique based on an innovative mechanism to remove electric charges from SRAM bitcells still powered on, before refreshing them with a new content not correlated with the previous one. The particularity of this novel hardware countermeasure is to be natively compatible with any SRAM circuit designed from pushed-rule foundry bitcells. We have designed and characterized an 8kB SRAM in 22nm FD-SOI process technology exploiting the proposed security strategy demonstrating an erase operation accomplished in the nanosecond time scale (versus 295$\mu$s with the conventional power-off solution) at the cost of an additional area of less than 5%. We have also shown that our solution is more efficient than a solution without prior erasure consisting in writing identical data to all memory addresses in a single clock cycle (1 ns). The use of the latter drops the ratio of zeroized addresses at 92%, while increasing the operating energy consumption by 2.1x under nominal operating conditions.
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Submitted on : Thursday, March 10, 2022 - 6:00:12 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, March 13, 2022 - 3:26:18 AM


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Jean-Philippe Noel, Manuel Pezzin, Jean-Frédéric Christmann, Lorenzo Ciampolini, Mikael Le Coadou, et al.. A near-instantaneous and non-invasive erasure design technique to protect sensitive data stored in secure SRAMs. ESSCIRC 2021 - IEEE 47th European Solid State Circuits Conference, Sep 2021, Grenoble, France. pp. 455-458, ⟨10.1109/ESSCIRC53450.2021.9567885⟩. ⟨cea-03605067⟩



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