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Shahin Tajik and Patrick Schaumont receive nearly $80,000 grant from Cisco Systems Inc. to develop remote PCBmeter

January 27, 2021

Title: PCBmeter: Remote PCB Verification using On-chip IP cores
PIs: Shahin Tajik (PI) and Patrick Schaumont (Co-PI)
Sponsor: Cisco Systems, Inc. through Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Total Budget Amount: $79,477

The globalization of electronic systems’ fabrication has made some of our most critical systems vulnerable to an array of attacks (Fig.1). Implanting spy chips and hardware Trojans on the printed circuit boards (PCBs) or replacing genuine components with counterfeit/recycled ones are examples of such attacks. These attacks enable adversaries to eavesdrop on processed/communicated information on the electronic boards, obtain backdoor-access to privileged modes of the system, or even disable the device functionality. As embedded electronics continue to be utilized within numerous systems ranging from smartphones to autonomous vehicles and critical infrastructure, these threats warrant an effective response to verify the integrity and authenticity of electronic printed circuit boards (PCBs) both prior to and during runtime. These attacks not only lead to significant financial loss but in some applications (e.g., medical devices), they can cause serious human injuries and even fatalities. Unfortunately, conventional solutions for physical verification of PCBs are costly, unscalable, labor-intensive, and error-prone.

                                                                                                                                             Fig. 1

The goal of this project is to develop an inspection tool, called PCBmeter, which can be realized as an intellectual property (IP) core on one of PCB’s chips, e.g., root-of-trust, to verify the physical integrity of the board before boot and during runtime to a remote verifier. PCBmeter will be compatible with legacy FPGA-based systems since it does not need any physical modifications to the current hardware. The proposed solution makes the inspection self-contained, and hence, no external expensive equipment will be required.