Detecting Hardware Trojans in PCBs Using Side Channel Loopbacks

Hammond Pearce, Virinchi Roy Surabhi, Prashanth Krishnamurthy, Joshua Trujillo, Ramesh Karri, Farshad Khorrami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Malicious modifications to printed circuit boards (PCBs) are known as hardware Trojans. These may arise when malafide third parties alter PCBs premanufacturing or postmanufacturing and are a concern in safety-critical applications, such as industrial control systems. In this research, we examine how data-driven detection can be utilized to detect such Trojans at run-time. We develop a flexible and reconfigurable PCB test bed derived from the popular open-source programmable logic controller (PLC) platform 'OpenPLC.' We then develop a Trojan detection framework, which utilizes and analyzes multimodal side channels (e.g., timing, magnetic signals, power, and hardware performance counters). We consider defender-configurable input/output (I/O) loopback test, comparison with design-document baselines, and magnetometer-aided monitoring of system behavior under defender-chosen excitations. Our approach can extend to golden-free environments. Golden (known-good) versions of the PCBs are assumed not available, but design information, datasheets, and component-level data are available. We demonstrate the efficacy of our approach on a range of Trojans instantiated in the test bed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)926-937
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Anomaly detection
  • Fuzzing
  • golden-free
  • Hardware
  • machine learning (ML)
  • printed circuit board (PCB)
  • Protocols
  • Relays
  • Sensors
  • Sockets
  • timing loopback
  • Trojan detection.
  • Trojan horses
  • Trojan detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Hardware and Architecture


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