Focus is Key to Success

A Focal Loss Function for Deep Learning-Based Side-Channel Analysis

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Abstract

The deep learning-based side-channel analysis represents one of the most powerful side-channel attack approaches. Thanks to its capability in dealing with raw features and countermeasures, it becomes the de facto standard approach for the SCA community. The recent works significantly improved the deep learning-based attacks from various perspectives, like hyperparameter tuning, design guidelines, or custom neural network architecture elements. Still, insufficient attention has been given to the core of the learning process - the loss function. This paper analyzes the limitations of the existing loss functions and then proposes a novel side-channel analysis-optimized loss function: Focal Loss Ratio (FLR), to cope with the identified drawbacks observed in other loss functions. To validate our design, we 1) conduct a thorough experimental study considering various scenarios (datasets, leakage models, neural network architectures) and 2) compare with other loss functions used in the deep learning-based side-channel analysis (both “traditional” ones and those designed for side-channel analysis). Our results show that FLR loss outperforms other loss functions in various conditions while not having computational overhead like some recent loss function proposals.