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In the decade since the concept was publicly introduced, power analysis attacks on cryptographic systems have become an increasingly studied topic in the computer security community. Research into countermeasures for these cryptographic systems has intensified as well. Experiments have been conducted showing the potential effectiveness of power analysis attacks and preventative techniques on both software (e.g. smartcard, DSP) and hardware (e.g. ASIC, FPGA) processing elements. One key observation that motivates our work is that the majority of the research into power analysis on FPGA-based cryptographic systems has been a) theoretical in nature, b) evaluated through simulation, or c) experimented using custom hardware that does not closely mirror real-world systems. In this paper, we look to bridge this gap between theory and practice by detailing our experience in performing a Differential Power Analysis (DPA) attack on a commercial FPGA development board. We present an automated data acquisition and analysis design for an FPGA-based implementation of the Data Encryption Standard (DES), and discuss some of the challenges and obstacles that we encountered when performing the DPA attack on our chosen commercial platform.
Date of Conference: 18-20 May 2008