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    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Will The Real ASIC Please Stand Up? : The Brave New World Of Counterfeit ASICs

    Just last week, Reuters reported that counterfeit components worth $1.3 Billion were seized in a joint operation by the US and the EU. Chew on these stats:

    • These counterfeits must be pretty sophisticated. Biggies like Intel, Phillips and Cisco are not exactly known for making great op-amps.
    • Counterfeiters are going after the big-ticket items. If 360,000 parts were seized, that puts the average value of the components seized at $3600!
    Counterfeit ASICs bring us face to face with an altered reality. You can fake a watch, a perfume or even clothing, but an ASIC? Counterfeits used to be something Nike and Armani worry about, not ASIC design companies. Clearly, we're not in Kansas anymore. The big questions are:
    • Do these counterfeits actually work??
    • How are ASICs reverse-engineered?
      • Do they use the datasheet/spec?
      • Do they obtain the GDSII?
      • Do they strip the die layer by layer?
    • Can we prevent an ASIC from being faked?
      • If the datasheet and the chip are out in the real world, can we prevent a copy?
    • Can we authenticate an ASIC beyond doubt?
      • What prevents them from copying that, too?
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