Leti_Safe Microchip_Photos

Leti backside shield protects microchips from physical attacks

March 9, 2017

Grenoble, France. Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech, has announced it has developed a shield that can help protect electronic devices against physical attacks from the chips’ backside. ICs embedded in connected objects, smart cards, or other systems dealing with sensitive data would benefit from this technology, which brings more privacy, safety, and security to users.

Physical attacks may occur when hackers have access to the device and can exploit weaknesses of the embedded IC to steal sensitive information or to corrupt its functioning. The shield proposed by Leti protects chips from invasive and semi-invasive attacks by infrared lasers, focused ion beams (FIB), chemicals, and other means.

The shield consists of a metal serpentine sandwiched between two polymers, one being opaque to infrared and serving as a physical barrier against FIB attacks. It also hides the design of the chips’ interconnect and combines with the polymer underneath to detect chemical attacks. Altering the serpentine typically triggers the IC to delete sensitive data.

The shield is fabricated using standard packaging processes, demonstrating that hardware cybersecurity can be implemented at low additional cost. Leti’s research results is being presented at this week’s Device Packaging Conference in Fountain Hills, AZ, in a paper entitled “Backside Shield against Physical Attacks for Secure ICs.”

“Implementation of multiple hardware and software countermeasures is making integrated circuits more secure, but the backside of a chip is still considered to be vulnerable to physical attacks,” said Alain Merle, Leti’s security strategic marketing manager. “Our team designed, fabricated, and tested a novel protection structure combining several elements that will trigger an alert if hackers use the backside of a chip to access the active parts of the IC.”



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