DANA Universal Dataflow Analysis for Gate-Level Netlist Reverse Engineering 📺
Reverse engineering of integrated circuits, i.e., understanding the internals of Integrated Circuits (ICs), is required for many benign and malicious applications. Examples of the former are detection of patent infringements, hardware Trojans or Intellectual Property (IP)-theft, as well as interface recovery and defect analysis, while malicious applications include IP-theft and finding insertion points for hardware Trojans. However, regardless of the application, the reverse engineer initially starts with a large unstructured netlist, forming an incomprehensible sea of gates.This work presents DANA, a generic, technology-agnostic, and fully automated dataflow analysis methodology for flattened gate-level netlists. By analyzing the flow of data between individual Flip Flops (FFs), DANA recovers high-level registers. The key idea behind DANA is to combine independent metrics based on structural and control information with a powerful automated architecture. Notably, DANA works without any thresholds, scenario-dependent parameters, or other “magic” values that the user must choose. We evaluate DANA on nine modern hardware designs, ranging from cryptographic co-processors, over CPUs, to the OpenTitan, a stateof- the-art System-on-Chip (SoC), which is maintained by the lowRISC initiative with supporting industry partners like Google and Western Digital. Our results demonstrate almost perfect recovery of registers for all case studies, regardless whether they were synthesized as FPGA or ASIC netlists. Furthermore, we explore two applications for dataflow analysis: we show that the raw output of DANA often already allows to identify crucial components and high-level architecture features and also demonstrate its applicability for detecting simple hardware Trojans.Hence, DANA can be applied universally as the first step when investigating unknown netlists and provides major guidance for human analysts by structuring and condensing the otherwise incomprehensible sea of gates. Our implementation of DANA and all synthesized netlists are available as open source on GitHub.
Doppelganger Obfuscation — Exploring theDefensive and Offensive Aspects of Hardware Camouflaging
Hardware obfuscation is widely used in practice to counteract reverse engineering. In recent years, low-level obfuscation via camouflaged gates has been increasingly discussed in the scientific community and industry. In contrast to classical high-level obfuscation, such gates result in recovery of an erroneous netlist. This technology has so far been regarded as a purely defensive tool. We show that low-level obfuscation is in fact a double-edged sword that can also enable stealthy malicious functionalities.In this work, we present Doppelganger, the first generic design-level obfuscation technique that is based on low-level camouflaging. Doppelganger obstructs central control modules of digital designs, e.g., Finite State Machines (FSMs) or bus controllers, resulting in two different design functionalities: an apparent one that is recovered during reverse engineering and the actual one that is executed during operation. Notably, both functionalities are under the designer’s control.In two case studies, we apply Doppelganger to a universal cryptographic coprocessor. First, we show the defensive capabilities by presenting the reverse engineer with a different mode of operation than the one that is actually executed. Then, for the first time, we demonstrate the considerable threat potential of low-level obfuscation. We show how an invisible, remotely exploitable key-leakage Trojan can be injected into the same cryptographic coprocessor just through obfuscation. In both applications of Doppelganger, the resulting design size is indistinguishable from that of an unobfuscated design, depending on the choice of encodings.
Stealthy Opaque Predicates in Hardware - Obfuscating Constant Expressions at Negligible Overhead 📺
Opaque predicates are a well-established fundamental building block for software obfuscation. Simplified, an opaque predicate implements an expression that provides constant Boolean output, but appears to have dynamic behavior for static analysis. Even though there has been extensive research regarding opaque predicates in software, techniques for opaque predicates in hardware are barely explored. In this work, we propose a novel technique to instantiate opaque predicates in hardware, such that they (1) are resource-efficient, and (2) are challenging to reverse engineer even with dynamic analysis capabilities. We demonstrate the applicability of opaque predicates in hardware for both, protection of intellectual property and obfuscation of cryptographic hardware Trojans. Our results show that we are able to implement stealthy opaque predicates in hardware with minimal overhead in area and no impact on latency.