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Nowhere to Hide: ­c San Diego Researchers Devise New Method For Detecting Hardware Trojans

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Artist's representation of a hardware Trojan.

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a new technique for detecting Trojans hidden in a device's hardware.


University of California, San Diego (UCSD) computer scientists have developed a new technique for detecting Trojans hidden in a device's hardware.

The researchers note an increasingly globalized and distributed hardware supply chain presents many opportunities for a malicious bug to be inserted in a chip along the way. Locating and identifying Trojans can be difficult, as the bugs are designed to avoid activation during testing, and previous methods for finding Trojans were imprecise and based on statistics.

The new method tracks information flow through a circuit's logic gates by assigning a label to important data in a hardware design. If any information unexpectedly flows outside of a secure area, the system will determine that a security violation occurred.

The technique, called gate-level information flow tracking, has been adopted by Tortuga Logic and can be conducted at the design phase, before a chip is sent to a foundry.

"If potentially you can detect a Trojan in an earlier stage in the supply chain, it's more cost-effective," says UCSD professor Ryan Kastner. "Whereas before you might have a vague idea that something is wrong, with our method you're able to prove it."

From UC San Diego News Center
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