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DISTROY: Detecting integrated circuit trojans with compressive measurements

Trojans are dormant most of the time, but when they are awake, they draw very small amount of power. This power anomaly can be used as an indication of the existence of Trojans. DISTROY relies on a statistical technique called compressive sensing to enable simple encoding and accurate reconstruction of the most significant power consumption anomalies. The team at Harvard applies N test vectors (or circuit inputs) to the circuit under test, obtaining N power measurements. These measurements are then compared to the expected values computed based on the Log-normal leakage current model. The discrepancies from the comparison reveal whether or not Trojans are present. DISTROY is based on the premise that circuit states in which the Trojan background power consumption stands out are sparse, thus allowing the use of compressive sensing at substantially reduced I/O requirements. This technique can efficiently and reliably detect Trojans that consume very small background power.

Intellectual Property Status: Patent(s) Pending


Many semiconductor companies today are fabless. They outsource the hardware production and assembly to large-scale contract manufacturers overseas for cost reduction. This poses a big security threat to the military and business world because Trojans can be embedded in the integrated circuit (IC) products with the malicious purpose of stealing highly classified information. However, detecting Trojans is very difficult and often impractical as it may require costly destructive inspection of the circuit. A group of Harvard electrical engineers led by Prof. H. T. Kung has found a solution to this problem. Named DISTROY, this new approach can detect Trojans by spotting power consumption anomalies in the IC with reduced I/O requirement. DISTROY is a non-destructive way to detect Trojans and should be useful for sensitive military and commercial applications.