Friday, April 11, 2014

DARPA proposed SHIELD: a useful tool against counterfeit electronic components

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking proposals for its Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program.  SHEILD aims to develop a small (100 micron x 100 micron) component, or dielet, to authenticate the provenance of electronics components.
As envisioned, SHIELD technology would provide 100 percent assurance against these common threats to electronic components:
  • Recycled components that are sold as new
  • Unlicensed overproduction of authorized components
  • Test rejects and sub-standard components sold as high-quality
  • Parts marked with falsely elevated reliability or newer date of manufacture
  • Clones and copies, which may be of low quality, or may include hidden functionality
  • Components that are covertly repackaged for unauthorized applications

As described on the DARPA website (, the proposed dielets would “contain a full encryption engine, sensors to detect tampering and would readily affix to today’s electronic components such as microchips. The dielet will be inserted into the electronic component’s package at the manufacturing site or affixed to existing trusted components, without any alteration of the host component’s design or reliability. There is no electrical connection between the dielet and the host component.”  
I like the concept of a dielet being inserted into the electronic components package or attached onto the existing component without any alteration of the current design of the component.

DARPA’s proposed SHIELD program is not enough on its own. I do strongly suggest the continuance of implementing a robust counterfeit detection test strategy as well as a plan to register the product and associated serial numbers.  These combined steps are necessary to alert the manufacturer when there is a counterfeit device out in the market.