Home / / UC San Diego researchers devise new strategy to tackle hardware Trojans

UC San Diego researchers devise new strategy to tackle hardware Trojans

The novel technique tracks information flow through a circuit’s logic gates, highlighting if the data makes an unexpected move to a restricted part of the chip.

UC San Diego researchers devise new strategy to tackle hardware Trojans
Professor Kastner: "The concern these days is that chips are designed and manufactured all over the world, and sometimes in countries that might have a reason to steal intellectual property or other information."

A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego have unveiled a novel technique geared towards detecting hardware Trojans.

A term used to describe tiny malicious circuits found within the transistors of modern computer chips, the research found that by following information flow a circuit's logic gates, IT teams would be able to track movements of a hardware Trojan.

Utilising a gate-level information flow tracking technique (GLIFT), IT specialists can monitor data that moves unexpectedly to a restricted part of the chip. Assigning labels to critical data in a hardware design, should the information flow out of the secure area, a security violation is triggered and IT can review whether or not a Trojan was the cause.

The method was detailed in a recently released paper titled Detecting Hardware Trojans with Gate-Level Information-Flow Tracking.

Compiled as part of a collaborative effort, the paper's authors include Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Postdoctorate Wei Hu of UC San Diego, Computer Science and Technology Ph.D. candidate Baolei Mao of Northwestern Polytechnical University, Tortuga Logic CEO Jason Oberg, and CSE Professor Ryan Kastner, also of UC San Diego.

Commenting on the project, Professor Kastner, shared: "People with bad intentions - say, a disgruntled employee - can insert these special ‘bugs' into sequence patterns that are very unlikely to be tested, where they lie dormant and wait for a rare input to happen and then they trigger something malicious, like draining your phone's battery or stealing your cryptographic key."

He added: "The concern these days is that chips are designed and manufactured all over the world, and sometimes in countries that might have a reason to steal intellectual property or other information."

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