Data Remanence in Flash Memory Devices


Data remanence is the residual physical representation of data that has been erased or overwritten. In non-volatile programmable devices, such as UV EPROM, EEPROM or Flash, bits are stored as charge in the floating gate of a transistor. After each erase operation, some of this charge remains. Security protection in microcontrollers and smartcards with EEPROM/Flash memories is based on the assumption that information from the memory disappears completely after erasing. While microcontroller manufacturers successfully hardened already their designs against a range of attacks, they still have a common problem with data remanence in floating-gate transistors. Even after an erase operation, the transistor does not return fully to its initial state, thereby allowing the attacker to distinguish between previously programmed and not programmed transistors, and thus restore information from erased memory. The research in this direction is summarised here and it is shown how much information can be extracted from some microcontrollers after their memory has been ‘erased’.

DOI: 10.1007/11545262_25

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@inproceedings{Skorobogatov2005DataRI, title={Data Remanence in Flash Memory Devices}, author={Sergei P. Skorobogatov}, booktitle={CHES}, year={2005} }