Security and Privacy Applied Research Lab

Active Hardware Metering for Piracy Prevention and Security

Farinaz Koushanfar
Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science
Rice University


We introduce the first active hardware metering scheme that aims to protect integrated circuits (IC) intellectual property (IP) against piracy and runtime tampering. The novel metering method simultaneously employs inherent unclonable variability in modern manufacturing technology, and functionality preserving alternations of the structural IC specifications. Active metering works by enabling the designers to lock each IC and to remotely disable it. The objectives are realized by adding new states and transitions to the original finite state machine (FSM) to create boosted finite state machines (BFSM) of the pertinent design. A unique and unpredictable ID generated by an IC is utilized to place an BFSM into the power-up state upon activation. The designer, knowing the transition table, is the only one who can generate input sequences required to bring the BFSM into the functional initial (reset) state. To facilitate remote disabling of ICs, black hole states are integrated within the BFSM.
We introduce nine types of potential attacks against the proposed active metering method. We further describe a number of countermeasures that must be taken to preserve the security of active metering against the potential attacks. The implementation details of the method with the objectives of being low-overhead, unclonable, obfuscated, stable, while having a diverse set of keys is presented. The active metering method was implemented, synthesized and mapped on the standard benchmark circuits. Experimental evaluations illustrate that the method has a low-overhead in terms of power, delay, and area, while it is extremely resilient against the considered attacks.


Farinaz Koushanfar is an assistant professor at the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Science (CS) at Rice University since August 2006. She has finished her PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and her MA in Statistics at UC Berkeley in December 2005. Prior to joining Rice, she held the Coordinated Science Lab (CSL) fellowship at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in hardware security and intellectual property protection, data integrity, and distributed embedded systems. She is the recipient of the DARPA/MTO Young Faculty Award across all core technology areas, and the NSF CAREER Award. She has also received Intel Open Collaborative Research fellowship, a best paper at Mobicom, NSF graduate student fellowship, and the UCLA Woman4change leadership award.