ICAS: an Extensible Framework for Quantifying the Coverage of Defenses Against Untrusted Foundries

The transistors used to construct Integrated Circuits (ICs) continue to shrink. While this shrinkage improves performance and density, it also reduces trust: the price to build leading-edge fabrication facilities has skyrocketed, forcing even nation states to outsource the fabrication of high-performance ICs. Outsourcing fabrication presents a security threat because the black-box nature of a fabricated IC makes comprehensive inspection infeasible. Since prior work shows the feasibility of fabrication-time attackers' evasion of existing post-fabrication defenses, IC designers must be able to protect their physical designs before handing them off to an untrusted foundry. To this end, recent work suggests methods to harden IC layouts against attack. Unfortunately, no tool exists to assess the effectiveness of the proposed defenses---meaning gaps may exist.
This paper presents an extensible IC layout security analysis tool called IC Attack Surface (ICAS) that quantifies defensive coverage. For researchers, ICAS identifies gaps for future defenses to target, and enables the quantitative comparison of existing and future defenses. For practitioners, ICAS enables the exploration of the impact of design decisions on an IC's resilience to fabrication-time attack. ICAS takes a set of metrics that encode the challenge of inserting a hardware Trojan into an IC layout, a set of attacks that the defender cares about, and a completed IC layout and reports the number of ways an attacker can add each attack to the design. While the ideal score is zero, practically, our experience is that lower scores correlate with increased attacker effort.


  • Kang G. Shin

Graduate Students

  • Timothy Trippel

External Collaborators

  • Matthew Hicks (Virginia Tech)