Leti Announces Backside Shield that Protects Microchips from Physical Attacks

Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech, today announced it has developed a shield that can help protect electronic devices against physical attacks from the chips' backside. Integrated circuits (ICs) embedded in connected objects, smart cards or other systems dealing with sensitive data would benefit from this technology, which brings more privacy, safety and security to the users.

GRENOBLE, France – March 8, 2017 – Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech, today announced it has developed a shield that can help protect electronic devices against physical attacks from the chips’ backside. Integrated circuits (ICs) embedded in connected objects, smart cards or other systems dealing with data would benefit from this technology, which brings more privacy, to the users.

Physical attacks may occur when hackers have access to the device and can weaknesses of the embedded IC to steal sensitive information or to corrupt its functioning. The shield proposed by Leti protects chips from invasive and semi-invasive attacks by infrared lasers, focused ion beams (FIB), chemicals and other means.

The shield consists of a metal serpentine sandwiched between two polymers, one being opaque to infrared and serving as a physical barrier against FIB attacks. It also hides the design of the chips’ serpentine and combines with the polymer underneath to detect chemical attacks. Altering the serpentine typically triggers the IC to delete sensitive data.

The shield is fabricated using standard packaging processes, which demonstrates that hardware can be implemented at low additional cost. Leti’s research results will be presented at this week’s Device Packaging Conference in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in a paper entitled “Backside Shield against Physical Attacks for ICs”.

“Implementation of multiple hardware and software countermeasures is making integrated circuits more secure, but the backside of a chip is still considered to be vulnerable to physical attacks,” said Alain Merle, Leti’s Strategic Marketing Manager. “Our team designed, fabricated and tested a novel protection structure combining several elements that will trigger an alert if hackers use the backside of a chip to access the active parts of the IC.”

About Leti

Leti, a technology research institute at CEA Tech, is a global leader in miniaturization technologies enabling smart, energy-efficient and secure solutions for industry. Founded in 1967, Leti pioneers micro-& nanotechnologies, tailoring differentiating applicative solutions for global companies, SMEs and startups. Leti tackles critical challenges in healthcare, energy and digital migration. From sensors to data and computing solutions, Leti’s multidisciplinary teams deliver solid expertise, leveraging world-class pre-industrialization facilities. With a staff of more than 1,900, a portfolio of 2,700 patents, 91,500 sq. ft. of cleanroom space and a clear IP policy, the institute is based in Grenoble, France, and has offices in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. Leti has launched 60 startups and is a member of the Carnot Institutes network. This year, the institute celebrates its 50th anniversary. Follow us on www.leti-cea.com and @CEA_Leti.

CEA Tech is the technology research branch of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), a key player in innovative R&D, defense & security, nuclear energy, technological research for industry and fundamental science. In 2015, Thomson Reuters identified CEA as the most innovative research organization in the world.

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