Xilinx Bitstream encryption broken.

27 Jul

There is rather an interesting set of research papers available on Xilinx encryption.

So what is Bitstream encryption and why does it matter?

An Field-programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is a reprogrammable set of logic cells/logic blocks, by utilizing a human readable programming language (Very High Speed Integrated Circuit) Hardware Description Language(VHDL) you can configure the cell to build complex logic devices, write a different program and the device can be configured to something completely different.
Many modern devices include FPGA’s ,not to mention the military uses.
As a result the compiled program files (referred to as ‘bit streams’), are usually heavily encrypted and can be tied to specific FPGA’s via an encryption key.
This Encryption prevents third parties from tampering/copying or duplicating the technology and keeps the IP secure.

However , now that the encryption has been broken, it leaves a large part of the Xilinx product line without security, and allows all the IP that was previously secured by the encryption, to be easily extracted.
This really is major research, since it would allow the IP of military systems to be compromised or even extracted and duplicated.

This also has implications for computer/device forensics, since it is now possible to extract bitstreams that were previously secured via encryption.

The detailed research papers are available here:

There has also been prior research on ‘power analysis attacks’ here:


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