Researchers propose two-part chips for security

Researchers propose two-part chips for security

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

The outsourcing of the manufacturing of complex ICs to has led to concerns over the chance for malicious circuitry to be installed in chips. The complexity of these chips and the design process is such that the circuitry can appear harmless and may even have a legitimate function but could be used as a “Trojan Horse” to allow sabotage subsequently. This is of particular concern in healthcare devices; public infrastructure; and financial, military, or government electronics.

Siddharth Garg, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and fellow researchers are proposing that chips include an embedded module designed to verify the correctness of a given IC and that a second verification processor is used to check the correctness of the embedded module.

The verification processor would be made a trusted foundry and be the root of trust for the primary IC.

“Employing an external verification unit made by a trusted fabricator means that I can go to an untrusted foundry to produce a chip that has not only the circuitry-performing computations, but also a module that presents proofs of correctness,” said Garg, in a statement.

The researchers next plan to investigate how to reduce the overhead of generating and verifying the proofs of correctness and the bandwidth required between the primary and verification chips.

Garg, abhi shelat of the University of Virginia, Rosario Gennaro of the City University of New York, Mariana Raykova of Yale University, and Michael Taylor of the University of California, San Diego, will share a five-year National Science Foundation of $3 million to conduct further research.

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