University of Brighton
The design of embedded processors demands a careful tradeoff between many conflicting objectives such as performance, silicon area and power consumption. Finding such a trade-off can often ignore the issue of security, which can cause, otherwise secure, software to leak information through so-called micro-architectural side channels. In this paper the authors show that early-terminating integer multipliers found in many embedded processors (e.g., ARM7TDMI) represent an instance of this problem. The early-termination mechanism causes differences in the time taken to compute a multiplication depending on the magnitude of the operands (e.g., up to three clock cycles on an ARM7TDMI processor), which are observable via variations in execution time and power consumption.