ASSURE: RTL Locking Against an Untrusted Foundry

IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems(2021)

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Semiconductor design companies are integrating proprietary intellectual property (IP) blocks to build custom integrated circuits (ICs) 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 most of 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: 1) it allows designers to obfuscate IP cores generated with many different methods (e.g., hardware generators, high-level synthesis tools, and preexisting IPs); 2) it obfuscates the semantics of an IC before logic synthesis; and 3) it does not require modifications to EDA flows. We perform a cost and security assessment of ASSURE against state-of-the-art oracle-less attacks.
IP protection,logic locking,register-transfer level (RTL),untrusted foundry
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