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By GCN Staff

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ISO: Tiny, inexpensive counterfeit electronics detector

Used and nonauthentic counterfeit electronic components are widespread throughout the defense supply chain. According to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, over the past two years alone, more than 1 million suspect parts have been associated with known supply-chain compromises.

The problem is pervasive, with both expensive and inexpensive electronic parts being targeted. Counterfeit or otherwise suspect electronic components present a critical risk for the Department of Defense, where a malfunction of a single part could lead to system failures that can put missions at risk. 

A new DARPA program seeks to develop a tool to verify the trustworthiness of a protected electronic component without disrupting or harming the system.

The DARPA Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program seeks proposals to develop a small (100 micron x 100 micron) component, or dielet, that authenticates the provenance of electronics components. Proposed dielets should contain a full encryption engine, sensors to detect tampering and would readily affix to microchips and other components.

“SHIELD demands a tool that costs less than a penny per unit, yet makes counterfeiting too expensive and technically difficult to do,” said Kerry Bernstein, DARPA program manager. “The dielet will be designed to be robust in operation, yet fragile in the face of tampering. What SHIELD is seeking is a very advanced piece of hardware that will offer an on-demand authentication method never before available to the supply chain.”

The dielet will be inserted into the component at the manufacturing site or affixed to existing trusted components, without any alteration of the host component’s design or reliability. There is no electrical connection between the dielet and the host component. Authenticity testing could be done anywhere with a handheld probe or with an automated one for larger volumes. 

Probes need to be close to the dielet for scanning. After a scan, an inexpensive appliance (perhaps a smartphone) uploads a serial number to a central, industry-owned server. The server sends an unencrypted challenge to the dielet, which sends back an encrypted answer and data from passive sensors—like light exposure—that could indicate tampering.

“The Department of Defense puts severe demands on electronics, which is why a trusted supply chain is so important” said Bernstein. “SHIELD is a technology demonstration leveraging the asymmetry of scaling for security. While the program is being funded by DARPA, industry will adapt future implementations to make the technology scalable to the industry and the defense supply chain.”

SHIELD is seeking proposals that would revolutionize electronic authentication with scalability and advanced technology not available today. DARPA will host a Proposers’ Day Workshop in support of the SHIELD program on March 14, 2014.

Posted by GCN Staff on Feb 28, 2014 at 11:41 AM


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