Obfuscating the Interconnects: Low-Cost and Resilient Full-Chip Layout Camouflaging

Satwik Patnaik, Mohammed Ashraf, Ozgur Sinanoglu, Johann Knechtel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Layout camouflaging can protect the intellectual property of modern circuits. Most prior art, however, incurs excessive layout overheads and necessitates customization of active-device manufacturing processes, i.e., the front-end-of-line (FEOL). As a result, camouflaging has typically been applied selectively, which can ultimately undermine its resilience. Here, we propose a low-cost and generic scheme—full-chip camouflaging can be finally realized without reservations. Our scheme is based on obfuscating the interconnects, i.e., the back-end-of-line (BEOL), through design-time handling for real and dummy wires and vias. To that end, we implement custom, BEOL-centric obfuscation cells, and develop a CAD flow using industrial tools. Our scheme can be applied to any design and technology node without FEOL-level modifications. Considering its BEOL-centric nature, we advocate applying our scheme in conjunction with split manufacturing, to furthermore protect against untrusted fabs. We evaluate our scheme for various designs at the physical, DRC-clean layout level. Our scheme incurs a significantly lower cost than most of the prior art. Notably, for fully camouflaged layouts, we observe average power, performance, and area overheads of 24.96%, 19.06%, and 32.55%, respectively. We conduct a thorough security study addressing the threats (attacks) related to untrustworthy FEOL fabs (proximity attacks) and malicious end-users (SAT-based attacks). An empirical key finding is that only large-scale camouflaging schemes like ours are practically secure against powerful SAT-based attacks. Another key finding is that our scheme hinders both placement-and routing-centric proximity attacks; correct connections are reduced by 7.47X, and complexity is increased by 24.15X, respectively, for such attacks.


  • Boolean satisfiability
  • Hardware security
  • IC camouflaging
  • IP protection
  • Interconnects
  • Proximity attacks.
  • Reverse engineering
  • Split manufacturing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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