Austin, TX. Counterfeit microelectronics and cloned ICs were topics of interest at the NIWeek Aerospace and Defense Summit. Tom Sharpe, a vice president at the distributor SMT Corp., called counterfeiting a huge issue for the industry. Cloned devices, he said, pass detailed mechanical inspections, their markings can be higher quality than those on authentic devices, and their electrical specs at room temperature can surpass those of authentic devices.
His conclusions are based on studies of more than 150 devices from 30 OCMs. He likened the clone threat to an iceberg—the danger is much greater than the perception. And whereas the problem was once confined to ICs being scraped off scrapped PCBs and sold as new, counterfeiters are now fabricating the chips themselves, performing functional die emulation and reverse engineering. The problems include not just economic loss and poor quality but also the threat of malicious hardware trojans.
“The ‘perfect storm’ within the semiconductor manufacturing industry is about to make landfall,” he said.
What’s to be done? Following Sharpe, Tom Bergman, program manager at Battelle Cyber Trust and Analytics, described nondestructive, destructive, and preemptive approaches. Nondestructive methods include visual inspection (often involving solvents), full functional test, and X-ray, SEM, XRF, or acoustic imaging to detect blacktopping and test material composition. Destructive methods involve decapsulation and cross-sectioning. Preemptive methods involve PUFs (physically unclonable functions), fingerprinting, and supply-chain control.
Battelle’s own initiative in this area, Bergan said, is electronic component authentication based on systemic manufacturing variations and machine learning to determine the “signature” of an authentic component resulting from deterministic variations unique to the manufacturing process and die layout. Battelle has developed an instrument called Barricade to derive the signature of an authentic device. Use of Barricade involves purchasing authentic chips from multiple authorized suppliers, interpreting the data sheet, devising test vectors, and collecting data.
Battelle, he said, is looking for a collaborator—such as an NI Alliance Partner—to product and commercialize Barricade.