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DARPA SHIELD targets counterfeit parts

Mar. 6, 2014 - 03:47PM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
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Counterfeit electronic parts are a problem. More than 1 million suspect parts have been detected in the defense supply chain over the last two years alone, says DARPA.

That's why the agency has launched the Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program. SHIELD aims to "develop a small (100 micron x 100 micron) component, or dielet, that authenticates the provenance of electronics components," according to a DARPA news release.

DARPA wants proposed dielets to contain a full encryption engine, sensors to detect tampering and to be easy to affix to microchips and similar electronic components. The dielet would be inserted into the package of the electronic component at the manufacturing site, or affixed to existing components, without altering the device's design, according to DARPA. There will be no electrical connection between the dielet and component.

Dielets could be scanned with a handheld or automated probe, and then the component's serial number sent by smartphone or other device to an industry-owned server. "The server sends an unencrypted challenge to the dielet, which sends back an encrypted answer and data from passive sensors - like light exposure - that could indicate tampering," DARPA said.

DARPA hopes SHIELD will defend against a litany of threats; recycled components that are sold as new, unlicensed overproduction of authorized components, test rejects and sub-standard components sold as high-quality, parts marked with falsely elevated reliability or newer date of manufacture, low-quality clones and copies, parts with hidden functionality, and components that are covertly repackaged for unauthorized applications.

“SHIELD demands a tool that costs less than a penny per unit, yet makes counterfeiting too expensive and technically difficult to do,” said DARPA program manager Kerry Bernstein. “The dielet will be designed to be robust in operation, yet fragile in the face of tampering. What SHIELD is seeking is a very advanced piece of hardware that will offer an on-demand authentication method never before available to the supply chain.”

DARPA will host a Proposers’ Day workshop for SHIELD on March 14. More details can be found here

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