Reverse-Engineering at FICS Research Facilities

Reverse engineering (RE) is a process in which the goal is to reproduce, duplicate, or enhance chips and systems based on the study of an original object and/or system. For electronic systems, reverse engineering (RE) could be performed at chip, board, and system levels. Electronic RE intentions include verification of a design for the purposes of quality control, fault and failure analysis, analysis of the features of a competitor product, counterfeit detection, Trojan detection, security and trust evaluation, confirmation of intellectual property, approved redesign of an obsolete product, and education. Because such electronics typically consist of multiple layers, reverse engineering involves obtaining the internal structure and connections of all layers, through either a destructive process of delayering or non-destructive processes. In a destructive process, delayering is followed by imaging of every layer before the next round of material removal. The processes involved in material removal require multiple imaging sessions and is a very time consuming approach, that often take days to complete.

For the first time, we have been able to use micro X-ray computed tomography and advanced image processing algorithms to acquire the structural information (traces, via holes and connections, etc.) of PCBs in a semi-automated fashion. This has drawn attention to the existing vulnerability of PCBs in the industry. FICS Research faculty are actively involved in projects whose goals are to prevent PCBs from being reverse-engineered, in both destructive and non-destructive approaches.