DARPA’s Defense Against Counterfeiting: SHIELD

DARPA’s Defense Against Counterfeiting: SHIELD

At DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office (MTO), proposals are already being accepted for the new Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics program, aka SHIELD. The SHIELD program will be the DOD’s response to component counterfeiting in the supply chain and will include the use of a “a small (100 micron x 100 micron) component, or dielet, that authenticates the provenance of electronics components. Proposed dielets should contain a full encryption engine, sensors to detect tampering and would readily affix to today’s electronic components such as microchips.” The goal, according to MTO Program Manager Kerry Bernstein is to provide a chip that monetarily and technically deincentivizes counterfeiting, yet can be produced for less than a penny per unit.

A May 7th amendment  to DARPA’s BAA (Broad Agency Announcement) gives us a glimpse of what to expect from prospective SHIELD dielets:

“Superior dielet designs will contain six critical hardware assurance features:

  1. A hardware root-of-trust cryptographic key storage that is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to reverse-engineer;
  2. A complete, compact, on-board key encryption engine capable of encrypting an external challenge using its on-board cryptographic key; the cryptographic key never leaves the SHIELD dielet. The message will be decrypted using the cryptographic key stored in a secure server database;
  3. A physically-fragile but electrically-robust dielet that can be embedded in the host component’s electronic packaging. Using standard reverse-engineering de-processing techniques, the dielet will self-destruct upon any attempt to physically open, remove, or transfer it from the host component;
  4. Unpowered, passive sensors that record attempted compromises to the authenticator dielet and potentially other operations, such as soldering or de-soldering, on the overall packaged assembly;
  5. Inductive or RF communication and powering to allow contactless operation; and
  6. Built-in dielet resiliency against power-based component exploits or attacks.”

Looking to tap into new areas of innovation, DARPA is encouraging even small institutions that can’t provide a full solution to get involved by teaming with other tech providers.

It is an exciting time to be involved in the industry’s anticounterfeiting effort. If successful, the dielet will provide a point-forward answer in a volatile supply chain—especially when dealing with obsolete parts. The deadline for proposals ended May 30, and we are looking forward to updates on SHIELD as information becomes available.

The GDCA Team


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