Dr. Asadi Works to Secure Chip Fabrication

ECE Assistant Professor and member of the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity (FICS) Research Navid Asadi is partnering with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) on a system which promises secure fabrication of electronic systems. The $900K project—SAIPA, a Security-Aware Interposer design for heterogeneous PAckaging—works to explore the vulnerabilities of interposer-based fabrication models and formulate various approaches to make use of the interposer features to ensure the security of the advanced heterogeneous packaging model. Dr. Asadi’s approach is a ‘lessons-learned’ approach—assessing, then quantifying, then creating countermeasures. 


With the rapidly rising cost of maintaining high-end foundries, the modern semiconductor industry has predominantly shifted to a horizontal business model, whereby integrated circuits (ICs) at advanced technology nodes are fabricated offshore. While this strategy makes sense from an economic perspective, it has raised serious concerns for semiconductor intellectual property (IP) protection.

In order to fabricate ICs, a design house provides the entire design electronically to the foundry. In most cases, the complete test patterns and responses needed to verify the chip functionality post-fabrication are provided as well. As a result, the foundry has complete access to the entire design, potentially leading to overproduction, cloning, IP infringement, and even hardware Trojan insertion. Understandably, these massive security vulnerabilities are of great concern to customers like the Department of Defense (DOD), to whom security and trust are of paramount importance.

The Project

With SAIPA, Dr. Asadi and his team aim to explore and assess the vulnerabilities of interposer-based fabrication models and develop countermeasures to exponentially increase the complexity of solving the unknown connections through an interposer layer. SAIPA will allow secure fabrication of electronic systems, while each die integrated in the 2.5 or 3D packaging may not necessarily be trusted. Given DOD’s need to securely integrate several different dies into one package (digital, analog, memory, etc), SAIPA is a project of critical importance to defense contractors.