Reversible Circuits: IC/IP Piracy Attacks and Countermeasures

Samah Mohamed Saeed, Alwin Zulehner, Robert Wille, Rolf Drechsler, Ramesh Karri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reversible circuits employ a computing paradigm that is useful in a broad variety of applications. With increasing interest, security concerns for those circuits also will rise in the near future. At first glance, reversible circuits seem to be more secure to integrated circuit (IC)/intellectual property (IP) piracy than conventional circuits, since the target function is usually embedded in the reversible backbone circuit. This embedding adds ancillary inputs and garbage outputs that may appear to hide the target function. However, recent work showed that target function embedding and reversible synthesis methods leave telltale signs in the reversible circuits, which allow for an easy extraction of the synthesis approach and the embedded circuit. In this article, we perform an analysis of the IC/IP piracy attacks on reversible circuits. We focus on the reversible circuits generated by the quantum multivalued decision diagram (QMDD)- and binary decision diagram (BDD)-based synthesis approaches as case studies. We show that most of the target function can be identified using the telltale signs of the synthesis approach. We then propose a cost-effective input-output scrambling scheme that wipes out these telltale signs and, thus, thwarts the considered attacks by adding reversible gates. Those additional gates yield efficient yet secure reversible circuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8831404
Pages (from-to)2523-2535
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Binary decision diagram (BDD)-based synthesis
  • integrated circuit (IC)/intellectual property (IP) piracy
  • number of embeddings
  • quantum multivalued decision diagram (QMDD)-based synthesis
  • reversible logic
  • scrambling scheme
  • security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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