Bashir Talukder

Bashir Talukder teamed with a University of Kansas student to earn a collaborative second place prize in the Logic Locking Conquest at Cybersecurity Awareness Worldwide (CSAW) 2020.

Courtesy photo

A senior in electrical and computer engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, has earned a collaborative second place prize along with University of Kansas (KU) colleagues in the Logic Locking Conquest at Cybersecurity Awareness Worldwide (CSAW) 2020, organized by the New York University Center for Cybersecurity.

Logic locking is a revolutionary technique for the protecting intellectual property (IP) of integrated circuits from myriad security threats, such as reverse engineering, overbuilding, piracy and hardware Trojan insertion. Several international and U.S universities participated in the CSAW Logic Locking Conquest, where participants were provided with a selection of locked sequential designs (netlists) with varying complexity and key sizes.

UAH's Bashir Talukder and KU student Mahmudul Hasan worked together to develop several techniques to break the locked circuit.

Talukder is mentored at UAH by Dr. Tauhidur Rahman, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Hasan's KU mentor is Dr. Tamzidul Hoque, an assistant professor in the KU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The increasing globalization of the semiconductor supply chain has resulted in a proliferation of threats against IP, Dr. Rahman says, and hardware obfuscation has emerged as a potential countermeasure.

Obfuscation aims to hide the design intent or "lock" the actual functionality by introducing functional locking and structural transformations to the IP. The original hardware design can be obfuscated, often by using a randomly generated key, by introducing various functional and structural transformations to generate an obfuscated design.

"Without knowing the obfuscation key, the hardware design cannot even be used as a black-box module, as it would not produce correct functional behavior," Dr. Rahman says. "In this competition, we were given three locked circuits. Our students successfully broke one locked circuit. They were also able to break the other two circuits partially."

In addition, the UAH-KU team developed ways to identify circuitry introduced for locking. Hackers could remove or bypass the locking mechanism if they discovered these methods and be able to remove or bypass the lock. The team also demonstrated the use of commercial CAD tools to automatically extract secret unlocking keys.



Dr. Tauhidur Rahman

Jim Steele