Secure assay execution on meda biochips to thwart attacks using real-time sensing

Tung Che Liang, Mohammed Shayan, Krishnendu Chakrabarty, Ramesh Karri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital microfluidic biochips (DMFBs) have emerged as a promising platform for DNA sequencing, clinical chemistry, and point-of-care diagnostics. Recent research has shown that DMFBs are susceptible to various types of malicious attacks. Defenses proposed thus far only offer probabilistic guarantees of security due to the limitation of on-chip sensor resources. A micro-electrode-dot-array (MEDA) biochip is a next-generation DMFB that enables the real-time sensing of on-chip droplet locations, which are captured in the form of a droplet-location map. We propose a security mechanism that validates assay execution by reconstructing the sequencing graph (i.e., the assay specification) from the droplet-location maps and comparing it against the golden sequencing graph. We prove that there is a unique (one-to-one) mapping from the set of droplet-location maps (over the duration of the assay) to the set of possible sequencing graphs. Any deviation in the droplet-location maps due to an attack is detected by this countermeasure because the resulting derived sequencing graph is not isomorphic to the original sequencing graph. We highlight the strength of the security mechanism by simulating attacks on real-life bioassays. We also address the concern that the proposed mechanism may raise false alarms when some fluidic operations are executed on MEDA biochips. To avoid such false alarms, we propose an enhanced sensing technique that provides fine-grained sensing for the security mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 17 2020


  • Biological system modeling
  • Computer security
  • Microfluidics
  • Phrases: MEDA biochips
  • Sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Secure assay execution on meda biochips to thwart attacks using real-time sensing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this