Electronic Design

The Key To IP Theft Prevention Is, Well, A Set Of Keys

If you've ever been to the Far East, you know you can get a genuine pair of designer shoes or jeans on the "black market" (okay, out in the open) for pennies on the dollar. That's because the factory is officially supposed to be closed at 5 p.m., yet it mysteriously continues to keep on humming along well after quitting time.

The very same strategy is being used to steal intellectual property (IP) from " fabless" companies at the wafer test, packaging, and chip stages of manufacturing (see the figure). In 2002, the Anti-Gray Market Alliance (AGMA) in conjunction with a global consulting firm estimated that $20 billion in IT products moves through the global gray market. In countries like China, counterfeit products make up about 30% of the overall market share.

To combat IP theft and reduce the problem of illegal surplus chip manufacturing, Certicom's novel approach uses software and IP to implement a cryptographic solution based on Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Requiring only 20,000 gates to implement, Certicom Security for Silicon Design Protection enforces security policies throughout the silicon manufacturing process.

Based on the same principle as a safety deposit box lock that needs two keys to open, keys are injected into one-time programmable memory during various steps of the manufacturing process. The unlock key is derived at power-on reset. If any of the keys are missing because some legitimate process has been bypassed, the chip will be "crippled" and unusable. But if all keys are accounted for, legitimately produced chips work as intended.

Also, Certicom Security for Silicon Design Protection enables fabless design companies to track key usage by metering the keys and producing an audit trail for each subcontractor. It protects IP and eliminates gray market threats through a strong security software and hardware system. It provides the ability to track and audit keying material to maintain better control over the production process. And, it increases bottom-line profitability by providing a secure system for outsourcing manufacturing process.

Pricing, which depends on the number of sites and the manufacturing line, typically runs around $350,000 including hardware, software, and integration.

Certicom
www.certicom.com/fabless

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