Ph.D. Dissertation Defense: Xi Chen

Friday, June 8, 2018
1:00 p.m.
AVW 2168
Maria Hoo
301 405 3681

ANNOUNCEMENT:  Ph.D. Dissertation Defense


Name: Xi Chen 



Professor Gang Qu (Chair)

Professor Manoj Franklin

Professor Robert Newcomb

Professor Dana Dachman-Soled

Professor Larry Washington, Dean's Representative


Date/time:  Friday, June 8, 2018 at 1pm


Location: AVW 2168


Title: Scan Chain based Hardware Security



Hardware has become a popular target for attackers to hack into any computing and communication system. Starting from the legendary power analysis attacks discovered 20 years ago to the recent Intel Spectre and Meltdown attacks, security vulnerabilities in hardware design have been exploited for malicious purposes. With the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) applications, where the IoT devices are extremely resource constrained, many proven secure but computational expensive cryptography protocols cannot be applied on such devices. Thus there is an urgent need to understand the hardware vulnerabilities and develop cost effective mitigation methods.

One established field in the semiconductor and integrated circuit (IC) industry, known as IC test, has the goal of ensuring that fabricated ICs are free of manufacturing defects and perform the required functionalities. The concept of design for test (DFT) has been integrated in the commercial IC design and fabrication process for several decades. Scan chain, which provides test engineers access to all the flip flops in the chip through the scan in (SI) and scan out (SO) ports, is the backbone of industrial testing methods and can be found in almost all the modern designs. In addition to IC testing, scan chain has found applications in intellectual property (IP) protection and IC identification. However, attackers can also leverage the controllability and observability of scan chain as a side channel to break systems such as cryptographic chips. This dissertation addresses these two important security problems by proposing (1) a practical scan chain based security primitive for IP protection and (2) a partial scan chain framework that can mitigate all the existing scan based attacks. 

First, we observe the fact that each D-flip-flop has two output ports, Q and Q’, designed to simplify the logic and has been used to reduce the power consumption for IC test. The availability of both Q and Q’ ports provide the opportunity for IP protection. More specifically, we can generate digital fingerprint by selecting either the Q-SD or the Q'-SD connection style during the design of scan chain. This method addresses the overhead and detectability problems, two of the most challenging problems in designing practical IP fingerprinting techniques in the past two decades. Combined with the recently developed reconfigurable scan networks (RSNs) that are popular for embedded and IoT devices, we design an IC identification scheme utilizing the Q-SD and Q’-SD connection styles.

In the second part, we propose a novel public-private partial scan chain based approach with the basic idea of removing the flip flops that store sensitive information from the scan chain. This will eliminate the scan chain side channel, but it also limits IC test. The key contribution in our proposed public-private partial scan chain design is that it can keep the full test coverage while providing security to the scan chain. This is achieved by chaining the removed flip flops into one or more private scan chains and adding protections to the SI and SO ports of such chains. We present a set of techniques to ensure that the desired test vectors can be entered into the systems efficiently. These techniques include test vector reordering, test vector reusing, and test vector generation based on a novel finite state machine (FSM) structure we have invented. On the other hand, to enable the test engineers the ability to observe the test output to diagnose the chip while not leaking information to the attackers, we put forward two lightweight mechanisms, one based on linear feedback shift register (LFSR) and the other one based on configurable physical unclonable function (PUF). Finally, we discuss a protocol on how in-field test can be realized using our public-private partial scan chain.


Audience: Graduate  Faculty 


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