Intel's new AES instructions for enhanced performance and security

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The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the Federal Information Processing Standard for symmetric encryption. It is widely believed to be secure and efficient, and is therefore broadly accepted as the standard for both government and industry applications. If fact, almost any new protocol requiring symmetric encryption supports AES, and many existing systems that were originally designed with other symmetric encryption algorithms are being converted to AES. Given the popularity of AES and its expected long term importance, improving AES performance and security has significant benefits for the PC client and server platforms. To this end, Intel is introducing a new set of instructions into the next generation of its processors, starting from 2009. The new architecture has six instructions: four instructions (AESENC, AESENCLAST, AESDEC, and AESDELAST) facilitate high performance AES encryption and decryption, and the other two (AESIMC and AESKEYGENASSIST) support the AES key expansion. Together, these instructions provide full hardware support for AES, offering high performance, enhanced security, and a great deal of software usage flexibility, and are therefore useful for a wide range of cryptographic applications. The AES instructions can support AES encryption and decryption with each one of the standard key lengths (128, 192, and 256 bits), using the standard block size of 128 bits. They can also be used for all other block sizes of the general RIJNDAEL cipher. The instructions are well suited to all common uses of AES, including bulk encryption/decryption using cipher modes such as ECB, CBC and CTR, data authentication using CBC-MACs (e.g., CMAC), random number generation using algorithms such as CTR-DRBG, and authenticated encryption using modes such as GCM. Beyond improving performance, the AES instructions provide important security benefits. Since the instructions run in data independent time and do not use table lookups, they help eliminating the major timing and cache-based attacks that threaten table-lookup based software implementations of AES. In addition, these instructions make AES simple to implement, with reduced code size. This helps reducing the risk of inadvertent introduction of security flaws, such as difficult-to-detect side channel leaks. This paper provides an overview of the new AES instructions and how they can be used for achieving high performance and secure AES processing. Some special usage models of this architecture are also described.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFast Software Encryption - 16th International Workshop, FSE 2009, Revised Selected Papers
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2009
Event16th International Workshop on Fast Software Encryption, FSE 2009 - Leuven, Belgium
Duration: 22 Feb 200925 Feb 2009

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume5665 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference16th International Workshop on Fast Software Encryption, FSE 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. The research described in this paper was supported by internal CTU grant SGS14 /191/OHK3/3T/13 “Advanced Algorithms of Digital Signal Processing and their Applications”. Access to computing and storage facilities owned by parties and projects contributing to the National Grid Infrastructure MetaCentrum provided under the programme “Projects of Projects of Large Research, Development, and Innovations Infrastructures” (CESNET LM2015042), is greatly appreciated.


  • Advanced Encryption Standard
  • Computer architecture
  • New instructions set

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science (all)


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