EECS Team Placed Second in the 'Capture the Flag' Global Competition

Tamzidul HoqueMahmudul Hasan

A team from the EECS department at the University of Kansas has earned second place in a global Capture the Flag (CTF) competition, HeLLO: CTF, 2021. Tamzidul Hoque, an assistant professor in the EECS department, along with his advisee Mahmudul Hasan represented KU. HeLLO (Hardware Logic Locking & Obfuscation): CTF is a global academic event co-organized by the University of Florida, Texas A&M University, and New York University Abu Dhabi. The competition involves a hardware-oriented hacking challenge to break logic locking.

Due to the globalization of the semiconductor supply chain, IP piracy, over-production, reverse engineering, and malicious modification of integrated circuit design have become a serious threat. Various circuit obfuscation/locking techniques have been proposed to thwart these attacks. HeLLO: CTF is an event for evaluating and improving the security of obfuscation/locking solutions using a red team blue team approach. The participating teams are provided with a selection of locked designs (netlists) with varying complexity and the objective is to extract the secret keys to unlock them.

The KU team proposed methods to extract the unlocking key using an information flow tracking-based technique. The team also demonstrated the use of commercial CAD tools for automating the attack for large-scale designs. Mahmudul Hasan is awarded prize money of 1500 USD and a trophy as a recognition. Dr. Hoque aims to pursue further research in understanding the feasibility of this attack on more complex designs and other locking techniques.