Side-channel based watermarks for integrated circuits

Georg T. Becker, Markus Kasper, Amir Moradi, Chris­tof Paar

IEEE International Symposium on Hardware-Oriented Security and Trust (HOST 2010), AnaheimCA , USA, 13-14 June 2010.


Intellectual property (IP) right violations are an increasing problem for hardware designers. Illegal copies of IP cores can cause multi-million dollar damages and are thus considered a serious threat. One possible solution to this problem can be digital watermarking schemes for integrated circuits. We propose a new watermarking technique that employs sidechannels as building blocks and can easily and reliably be detected by methods adapted from side-channel analysis. The main idea is to embed a unique signal into a side-channel of the device that serves as a watermark. This enables circuit designers to check integrated circuits for unauthorized use of their watermarked cores. The watermark is hidden below the noise floor of the side channel and is thus hidden from third parties. Furthermore, the proposed schemes can be implemented with very few gates and are thus even harder to detect and to remove. The proposed watermarks can also be realized in a programmable fashion to leak a digital signature.