Nvidia licenses Rambus' DPA tech for side-channel data leak prevention

— 4:24 PM on October 24, 2016

Most gerbils are familiar with the Rambus name from the ill-fated RDRAM popular back in the Pentium 4 days. Although the company appeared to vanish from the consumer space, it continued on to offer its services to high-flying customers like Boeing. One of Rambus' products series is called DPA Countermeasures (standing for Differential Power Analysis), a suite of side-channel attack prevention solutions. Now, Nvidia has licensed that technology for its own wares.

Nvidia didn't specify what it's using Rambus' DPA for, but the press release mentions "artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, virtual reality and professional visualization." We take it that means Nvidia may be using DPA in some Tesla products, and possibly even Quadro cards.

Rambus DPA Workstation Platform

Old-enough gerbils may remember the term "Van Eck phreaking," a synonym of sorts for side-channel attacks, usually of the electrical fashion. A side-channel attack involves, for example, tuning in to and intepreting the electromagnetic noise that a CPU makes when it's processing encryption keys, in order to extract them. Rambus' DPA is a set of products meant to analyze or prevent those attacks.

The DPA Workstation Testing Platform is a combination of hardware and software (including a sweet-looking oscilloscope) that allows circuit designers to verify that their gear isn't susceptible to side-channel attacks. Rambus even offers its own take on an encryption core, called the DPA Resistant AES Core—a "black box" of sorts intended to be integrated into SoCs and FPGAs that handles encryption duties but isn't suspectible to side-channel attacks.

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