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ASSURE: RTL Locking Against an Untrusted Foundry

by   Christian Pilato, et al.

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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