Virtual Architecture Overlay for Computer Hardware Security

Technology #16477

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Researchers
Greg M. Stitt
Kai Yang
Swarup Bhunia
Robert A. Karam
Managed By
Richard Croley
Assistant Director 352-392-8929

Increases Hardware Security and Information Processing Efficiency

This virtual architecture interface improves both security and performance for field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). FPGAs are integrated circuits that can be configured — and reconfigured — by a customer after manufacture. They function almost as blank slates, which the customer can customize with a bit file. This flexibility allows FGPA use in a wide variety of fields, including wearable electronics, space exploration, defense and the internet of things (IoT), which refers to the connection of devices like appliances, cars or health monitors to the internet. Available computer-aided design (CAD) tools for FPGAs fail to provide the security, performance, and programmability that these types of uses demand.

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Application

These virtual architecture interfaces provide a range of overlay architectures to improve the performance, security, and programmability of FGPAs

Advantages

  • Improves data security, reducing risk of piracy or cloning
  • Constructs overlay architecture closely matched to the requirements of an application or domain, improving programmability, flexibility, and productivity
  • Reduces bitstream size, enabling easier field upgrades
  • Allows for dynamic reconfiguration of FPGAs, improving working flexibility
  • Increases design-space exploration speed by three orders of magnitude, allowing for faster innovation and development

Technology

Unique virtual architectures make the underlying hardware appear different on every FPGA device, despite having the same functionality, by separating true device functionality from hardware-specific resources. The architecture interface makes reverse engineering, piracy, and tampering difficult because while the actual FPGA architecture is described in documentation, and the hardware itself is identical among specific devices. The overlay architecture can be proprietary for a company or product and kept confidential. The automatically-generated architectural variants can deter large-scale piracy and reverse engineering efforts.