Fabrication security and trust of domain-specific ASIC processors
May 1, 2017
IEEE Intl. Symp. on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, HOST, 1-5 May 2017.
Application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are commonly used to implement high-performance signal-processing systems for high-volume applications, but their high development costs and inflexible nature make ASICs inappropriate for algorithm development and low-volume DoD applications. In addition, the intellectual property (IP) embedded in the ASIC is at risk when fabricated in an untrusted foundry. Lincoln Laboratory has developed a flexible signal-processing architecture to implement a wide range of algorithms within one application domain, for example radar signal processing. In this design methodology, common signal processing kernels such as digital filters, fast Fourier transforms (FFTs), and matrix transformations are implemented as optimized modules, which are interconnected by a programmable wiring fabric that is similar to the interconnect in a field programmable gate array (FPGA). One or more programmable microcontrollers are also embedded in the fabric to sequence the operations. This design methodology, which has been termed a coarse-grained FPGA, has been shown to achieve a near ASIC level of performance. In addition, since the signal processing algorithms are expressed in firmware that is loaded at runtime, the important application details are protected from an unscrupulous foundry.