Development of a Layout-Level Hardware Obfuscation Tool

Shweta Malik, Georg T. Becker, Chris­tof Paar, Wayne P. Burleson

IEEE Computer Society Annual Symposium on VLSI, ISVLSI 2015 (Invited Paper), Montpellier, France, July 2015


While hardware obfuscation has been used in industry for many years, very few scientific papers discuss layout-level obfuscation. The main aim of this paper is to start a discussion about hardware obfuscation in the academic community and point out open research problems. In particular, we introduce a very flexible layout-level obfuscation tool that we use as a case study for hardware obfuscation. In this obfuscation tool, a small custom-made obfuscell is used in conjunction with a standard cell to build a new obfuscated standard cell library called Obfusgates. This standard cell library can be used to synthesize any HDL code with standard synthesis tools, e.g. Synopsis Design Compiler. However, only obfuscating the functionality of individual gates is not enough. Not only the functionality of individual gates, but also their connectivity, leaks important important information about the design. In our tool we therefore designed the obfuscation gates to include a large number of “dummy wires”. Due to these dummy wires, the connectivity of the gates in addition to their logic functionality is obfuscated. We argue that this aspect of obfuscation is of great importance in practice and that there are many interesting open research questions related to this.


tags: Layout-level hardware obfuscation, Reverse-Engineering