A collaborative team from the University of Kansas and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has earned second place in the Logic Locking Conquest in Cybersecurity Awareness Worldwide (CSAW) 2020, organized by the NYU Center for Cybersecurity. Tamzidul Hoque, a new Assistant Professor in the EECS department, along with his advisee Mahmudul Hasan represented KU. The joint effort also included Assistant Professor Tauhidur Rahman and his student B. M. S. Bahar Talukder from the EECS department of UAH.
CSAW is the most extensive cybersecurity event in the world that is led by students. It features 10 hacking competitions, workshops, and industry events. The logic locking conquest is one of the hardware-oriented hacking challenges. Logic locking is an emerging solution for protecting hardware intellectual property (i.e., the design of Integrated Circuits) from a wide range of security threats, including: piracy, over-production, reverse engineering, and malicious modifications. These attacks have become serious concerns due to the globalization of the electronic supply chain that enables untrusted third-party vendors to be involved in the design and fabrication process.
In the logic locking conquest, participants try to attack hardware designs locked with state-of-the-art methods. This year's challenge focused on hacking the Sequential Locking method. Participating teams were provided with a selection of locked designs (netlists) with varying complexity and key sizes. The KU–UAH team proposed methods to identify the additional circuitry introduced for locking purposes. The identification of such logic could allow an attacker to remove or bypass the locking mechanism. The team also demonstrated the use of commercial CAD tools for automatically extracting the secret unlocking keys. Dr. Hoque aims to pursue further research in understanding the feasibility of this attack on more complex designs and other locking techniques.