The State-of-the-Art in IC Reverse Engineering

  • Randy Torrance
  • Dick James
Conference paper

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-04138-9_26

Volume 5747 of the book series Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS)
Cite this paper as:
Torrance R., James D. (2009) The State-of-the-Art in IC Reverse Engineering. In: Clavier C., Gaj K. (eds) Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems - CHES 2009. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 5747. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg


This paper gives an overview of the place of reverse engineering (RE) in the semiconductor industry, and the techniques used to obtain information from semiconductor products.

The continuous drive of Moore’s law to increase the integration level of silicon chips has presented major challenges to the reverse engineer, obsolescing simple teardowns, and demanding the adoption of new and more sophisticated technology to analyse chips. Hardware encryption embedded in chips adds a whole other level of difficulty to IC analysis.

This paper covers product teardowns, and discusses the techniques used for system-level analysis, both hardware and software; circuit extraction, taking the chip down to the transistor level, and working back up through the interconnects to create schematics; and process analysis, looking at how a chip is made, and what it is made of. Examples are also given of each type of RE. The paper concludes with a case study of the analysis of an IC with embedded encryption hardware.

Download to read the full conference paper text

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randy Torrance
    • 1
  • Dick James
    • 1
  1. 1.Chipworks Inc.OttawaCanada