Paper 2022/503

Towards a Formal Treatment of Logic Locking

Peter Beerel, Marios Georgiou, Ben Hamlin, Alex J. Malozemoff, and Pierluigi Nuzzo


Logic locking aims to protect the intellectual property of a circuit from a fabricator by modifying the original logic of the circuit into a new “locked” circuit such that an entity without the key should not be able to learn anything about the original circuit. While logic locking provides a promising solution to outsourcing the fabrication of chips, unfortunately, several of the proposed logic locking systems have been broken. The lack of established secure techniques stems in part from the absence of a rigorous treatment toward a notion of security for logic locking, and the disconnection between practice and formalisms. We seek to address this gap by introducing formal definitions to capture the desired security of logic locking schemes. In doing so, we investigate prior definitional efforts in this space, and show that these notions either incorrectly model the desired security goals or fail to capture a natural “compositional” property that would be desirable in a logic locking system. Finally we move to constructions. First, we show that universal circuits satisfy our security notions. Second, we show that, in order to do better than universal circuits, cryptographic assumptions are necessary.

Note: Changes from published version: - Fix typo in Def. 7 - Fix typo in Thm. 1 - Fix typo in proof of Thm. 3 - Fix typo in proof of Thm. 5 - Fix mismatch between theorem statement and proof in Thm. 7

Available format(s)
Publication info
A minor revision of an IACR publication in Tches 2022
logic lockingsecurity definitionshardware securityuntrusted foundry
Contact author(s)
hamlinb @ galois com
amaloz @ galois com
marios @ galois com
2022-04-28: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Peter Beerel and Marios Georgiou and Ben Hamlin and Alex J.  Malozemoff and Pierluigi Nuzzo},
      title = {Towards a Formal Treatment of Logic Locking},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2022/503},
      year = {2022},
      doi = {10.46586/tches.v2022.i2.92-114},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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