Configurable mixed-signal IP specialist Agile Analog has moved into the supply of cores for detecting hardware-hacking attempts as well as more conventional data-conversion modules following the completion of a £1m project co-funded by Innovate UK, one of the British government’s technological-investment agencies.
Agile Analog has developed a set of techniques to quickly configure and port IP to different processes and requirements. The company claims its Composa systems can generate IP variants within as little as four weeks after finalising the customer’s specification compared to a manual project that might take between nine and eighteen months typically.
Tim Ramsdale, CEO of Agile Analog, said: “Funding from Innovate UK provided crucial support to Agile Analog’s product development, enabling us to implement the Composa system for the first time in complex IP blocks such as ADCs and DACs.”
Alongside the ADCs and DACs is a family of intrusion-detection cores that go under the banner of agileSCA. The IP blocks are designed to help guard against active side-channel attacks in which an adversary will attempt to break normal operation in order to gain information on protected operations and security keys. The cores include the VGlitch module, which detects sudden changes to supply voltage, a common tactic that is used to prevent a microprocessor from completing instruction cycles normally. This type of attack often prevents a processor from taking a branch it would normally execute, potentially exposing the operation of critical firmware. Other monitors focus on attempts to manipulate the clock, which also often prevent a pipeline from operating correctly, as well as sudden temperature changes.
Typically, the monitors would be used with protection circuitry to force a reset or wipe keys. The modules are currently available on CMOS and FD-SOI processes from 180nm to 12nm.