Improper Protection against Electromagnetic Fault Injection (EM-FI)

The device is susceptible to electromagnetic fault injection attacks, causing device internal information to be compromised or security mechanisms to be bypassed.


Electromagnetic fault injection may allow an attacker to locally and dynamically modify the signals (both internal and external) of an integrated circuit. EM-FI attacks consist of producing a local, transient magnetic field near the device, inducing current in the device wires. A typical EMFI setup is made up of a pulse injection circuit that generates a high current transient in an EMI coil, producing an abrupt magnetic pulse which couples to the target producing faults in the device, which can lead to:

Bypassing security mechanisms such as secure JTAG or Secure Boot

Leaking device information

Modifying program flow

Perturbing secure hardware modules (e.g. random number generators)


The following examples help to illustrate the nature of this weakness and describe methods or techniques which can be used to mitigate the risk.

Note that the examples here are by no means exhaustive and any given weakness may have many subtle varieties, each of which may require different detection methods or runtime controls.

Example One

In many devices, security related information is stored in fuses. These fuses are loaded into shadow registers at boot time. Disturbing this transfer phase with EM-FI can lead to the shadow registers storing erroneous values potentially resulting in reduced security.

Colin O'Flynn has demonstrated an attack scenario which uses electro-magnetic glitching during booting to bypass security and gain read access to flash, read and erase access to shadow memory area (where the private password is stored). Most devices in the MPC55xx and MPC56xx series that include the Boot Assist Module (BAM) (a serial or CAN bootloader mode) are susceptible to this attack. In this paper, a GM ECU was used as a real life target. While the success rate appears low (less than 2 percent), in practice a success can be found within 1-5 minutes once the EMFI tool is setup. In a practical scenario, the author showed that success can be achieved within 30-60 minutes from a cold start.

See Also

Comprehensive Categorization: Protection Mechanism Failure

Weaknesses in this category are related to protection mechanism failure.

Physical Access Issues and Concerns

Weaknesses in this category are related to concerns of physical access.

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.

Entries with Maintenance Notes

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Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during implementation.

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