Reinforcement learning for hyperparameter tuning in deep learning-based side-channel analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Deep learning represents a powerful set of techniques for profiling side-channel analysis. The results in the last few years show that neural network architectures like multilayer perceptron and convolutional neural networks give strong attack performance where it is possible to break targets protected with various coun-termeasures. Considering that deep learning techniques commonly have a plethora of hyperparameters to tune, it is clear that such top attack results can come with a high price in preparing the attack. This is especially problematic as the side-channel community commonly uses random search or grid search techniques to look for the best hyperparameters. In this paper, we propose to use reinforcement learning to tune the convolutional neural network hyperparameters. In our framework, we investigate the Q-Learning paradigm and develop two reward functions that use side-channel metrics. We mount an investigation on three commonly used datasets and two leakage models where the results show that reinforcement learning can find convolutional neural networks exhibiting top performance while having small numbers of trainable parameters. We note that our approach is automated and can be easily adapted to different datasets. Several of our newly developed architectures outperform the current state-of-the-art results. Finally, we make our source code publicly available.1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-707
Number of pages31
JournalIACR Transactions on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Convolutional Neural Networks
  • Deep Learning
  • Hyperparameter tuning
  • Q-policy
  • Reinforcement Learning
  • Reward
  • Side-channel Analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Reinforcement learning for hyperparameter tuning in deep learning-based side-channel analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this