New transistor design hides important computer chip hardware from hackers


News Highlights: New transistor design hides important computer chip hardware from hackers

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A hacker can reproduce a circuit on a chip by discovering what key transistors do in a circuit – but not if the transistor “type” is undetectable.

Engineers at Purdue University have demonstrated a way to disguise which transistor it is by building it from a plate-like material called black phosphor. This built-in security measure would prevent hackers from getting enough information about the circuit to reverse engineer it.

The findings appear in a paper released Monday (Dec. 7) in Nature electronics.

Reverse engineering chips are a common practice – for hackers as well as for research companies intellectual property infringement. Researchers are also developing X-ray imaging techniques that doesn’t require you to touch a chip to reverse engineer it.

The approach that Purdue researchers have demonstrated would increase security on a more fundamental level. How chip manufacturers choose to make this transistor design compatible with their processes would determine the availability of this level of protection.

A chip uses millions of transistors in a circuit. When a voltage is applied, there are two different types …

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