ECE researcher receives STARSS Grant to detect counterfeit integrated circuits


December 11, 2014

Ken Mai, senior systems scientist in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University was awarded a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Secure, Trustworthy, Assured and Resilient Semiconductors and Systems (STARSS) program to develop circuit designs that enable the detection of counterfeit integrated circuits (ICs).

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) fund the STARSS program, which awarded nine grants to 10 universities to support innovation in the field of cybersecurity at the circuit, architecture, and system levels.

Electronic system counterfeiting is a significant and growing problem with an economic impact running into the billions of dollars per year. Counterfeit integrated circuits can cause myriad security, safety and reliability problems in electronic systems. Government reports disclose that counterfeit ICs have been found in deployed military hardware.

Mai's project combats counterfeiting by designing and implementing secure chip odometers that provide ICs with a secure gauge of use and age and an authentication of provenance to allow system integrators to easily discern genuine parts from counterfeit ones. The team likens their techniques to a car's odometer and vehicle identification number (VIN)—the odometer measures mileage while the VIN uniquely identifies its make, model date of manufacture and options.

The researchers will explore the most efficient, secure methods for designing chip odometers, as well as the types of possible attacks an adversary may attempt. The project plans to implement test chip prototypes, which will provide proof-of-concept designs and experimentally measured data to back theoretical analysis and models.

The NSF's involvement in the STARSS program comes as part of its Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) portfolio. The STARSS program is also a vital addition to SRC's Trustworthy and Secure Semiconductors and Systems (T3S) Initiative.

Story originally published here.