Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2021/1278

A survey of algorithmic methods in IC reverse engineering

Leonid Azriel and Julian Speith and Nils Albartus and Ran Ginosara and Avi Mendelson and Christof Paar

Abstract: The discipline of reverse engineering integrated circuits (ICs) is as old as the technology itself. It grew out of the need to analyze competitor’s products and detect possible IP infringements. In recent years, the growing hardware Trojan threat motivated a fresh research interest in the topic. The process of IC reverse engineering comprises two steps: netlist extraction and specification discovery. While the process of netlist extraction is rather well understood and established techniques exist throughout the industry, specification discovery still presents researchers with a plurality of open questions. It therefore remains of particular interest to the scientific community. In this paper, we present a survey of the state of the art in IC reverse engineering while focusing on the specification discovery phase. Furthermore, we list noteworthy existing works on methods and algorithms in the area and discuss open challenges as well as unanswered questions. Therefore, we observe that the state of research on algorithmic methods for specification discovery suffers from the lack of a uniform evaluation approach. We point out the urgent need to develop common research infrastructure, benchmarks, and evaluation metrics.

Category / Keywords: applications / Hardware reverse engineering, Survey, Boolean function learning, Logical equivalence checking

Original Publication (with minor differences): Journal of Cryptographic Engineering

Date: received 23 Sep 2021, last revised 27 Sep 2021

Contact author: nils albartus at rub de

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20210927:091745 (All versions of this report)

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