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ASSURE: RTL Locking Against an Untrusted Foundry

10/11/2020
by   Christian Pilato, et al.
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Semiconductor design companies are integrating proprietary intellectual property (IP) blocks to build custom integrated circuits (IC) and fabricate them in a third-party foundry. Unauthorized IC copies cost these companies billions of dollars annually. While several methods have been proposed for hardware IP obfuscation, they operate on the gate-level netlist, i.e., after the synthesis tools embed the semantic information into the netlist. We propose ASSURE to protect hardware IP modules operating on the register-transfer level (RTL) description. The RTL approach has three advantages: (i) it allows designers to obfuscate IP cores generated with many different methods (e.g., hardware generators, high-level synthesis tools, and pre-existing IPs). (ii) it obfuscates the semantics of an IC before logic synthesis; (iii) it does not require modifications to EDA flows. We perform a cost and security assessment of ASSURE.

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