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I'm a student of computer architecture and I just got through a class on Hardware Security.

We spent a considerable amount of time learning about microarchitectural side channels, reading papers on how researchers "stole" cryptographic keys from toy crypto libraries by timing memory accesses, and crafting toy example attacks and defences. Oh and of course spectre and meltdown.

Which makes me wonder about the point of all this. Has there ever been an actual attack that used a microarchitectural side or covert channel, for example stealing a DRM key by monitoring cache access?


Before you close my question for "seeking recommendation for books, software, etc". But I'm doing nothing of the sort. I'm looking for a documented security breach incident that involved a micro-architectral side-channel.

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    Is there any reason you don't consider spectre and meltdown to be actual attacks? – nobody Feb 9 at 18:38
  • many smart locks can be glitched open. and now coin wallets: blog.kraken.com/post/3662/… – dandavis Feb 9 at 20:22
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    Just assume that anything which was demonstrated as possible by researchers might have been done by organizations with enough capabilities, i.e. government agencies. Would they publish that they've used such attacks - likely not. But for most targets this kind of specialized and complex attacks are not even needed, so why do the efforts if there are easier ways. This does not make such attacks less dangerous though. – Steffen Ullrich Feb 9 at 20:46

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