Spin-Orbit Torque Devices for Hardware Security: From Deterministic to Probabilistic Regime

Satwik Patnaik, Nikhil Rangarajan, Johann Knechtel, Ozgur Sinanoglu, Shaloo Rakheja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protecting intellectual property (IP) has become a serious challenge for chip designers. Most countermeasures are tailored for CMOS integration and tend to incur excessive overheads, resulting from additional circuitry or device-level modifications. On the other hand, power density is a critical concern for sub-50 nm nodes, necessitating alternate design concepts. Although initially tailored for error-tolerant applications, imprecise computing has gained traction as a general-purpose design technique. Emerging devices are currently being explored to implement ultralow-power circuits for inexact computing applications. In this paper, we quantify the security threats of imprecise computing using emerging devices. More specifically, we leverage the innate polymorphism and tunable stochastic behavior of spin-orbit torque (SOT) devices, particularly, the giant spin-Hall effect (GSHE) switch. We enable IP protection (by means of logic locking and camouflaging) simultaneously for deterministic and probabilistic computing, directly at the GSHE device level. We conduct a comprehensive security analysis using state-of-the-art Boolean satisfiability (SAT) attacks; this paper demonstrates the superior resilience of our GSHE primitive when tailored for deterministic computing. We also demonstrate how probabilistic computing can thwart most, if not all, existing SAT attacks. Based on this finding, we propose an attack scheme called probabilistic SAT (PSAT) which can bypass the defense offered by logic locking and camouflaging for imprecise computing schemes. Further, we illustrate how careful application of our GSHE primitive can remain secure even on the application of the PSAT attack. Finally, we also discuss side-channel attacks and invasive monitoring, which are arguably even more concerning threats than SAT attacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8718321
Pages (from-to)1591-1606
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Boolean satisfiability (SAT)
  • giant spin-Hall effect (GSHE)
  • hardware security
  • imprecise computing
  • integrated circuit (IC) camouflaging
  • probabilistic computing
  • reverse engineering
  • spin-orbit torque (SOT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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