Lab enables analysis of microchip security

06 December 2016

Texplained launched its new laboratory to offer fast and in-depth analysis of microchip security and preventing counterfeiting and piracy.

Counterfeit electronic chips and semiconductors cause losses of up to $169 billion a year to the electronics industry supply chain, according to a 2012 report by research firm IHS Markit.

Olivier Thomas, CEO and Head of Hardware Security at Texplained says “Microchips are extremely vulnerable to security threats. Indeed, they are more vulnerable than ever before because the sheer volume of products which have microchips and integrated circuits is increasing exponentially. Microchips are everywhere: smart cards for banking and ID, the chipsets in components of the Internet of Things, pay TV set-top boxes, gaming controllers, cars and smart phones. In parallel, microchip hackers are constantly mastering new microchip technologies and attacking their security. The threat continues to grow.

"We approach, assess and solve microchip security issues with a different mindset – half hacker, half engineer with electronics knowledge.  Armed with this unique mindset and the latest laboratory technologies, our pioneering ‘savoir-faire’ enables us to solve our clients’ microchip security issues on a worldwide basis.”

Texplained provides its clients with services across the whole microchip security value chain including auditing the security of integrated circuits, backdoor research and IP infringement investigation. Texplained’s clients include microchip manufacturers, government organisations and systems integrators that integrate microchips into their products. Texplained believes that it is one of the only companies in the market to specialise solely in microchip reverse engineering and security.

Building a new lab in-house enables Texplained to reverse engineer microchips and analyse the integrated circuits using the latest imaging and deprocessing technologies. The process involves removing the five to 20 layers of metal and oxide that typically make up a microchip.  This requires the highly-skilled implementation of a combination of different chemical and mechanical processes. After the delayering, Texplained scans images of these microscopic layers with a scanning electron microscope.  The Texplained team then uses its proprietary ARES ‘automated reverse engineering software’ to analyse the images of the circuits on each layer.  

Texplained’s new lab provides clients with a greater depth of analysis more quickly and cost-effectively. With Texplained housing all the technologies and processes for microchip analysis in its new lab, clients can enjoy more security and flexibility as they now no longer have to outsource their microchip analysis to multiple partners to obtain reliable results. Texplained’s capacity to research the latest microchip analysis techniques and to evaluate the most recent and complex microchips on the market will increase. This is a crucial factor as microchips shrink and become ever more microscopic in size.

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