Farahmandi Receives DURIP Award to Support Hardware Security Education

Dr. Farimah Farahmandi

Yangbin Wang Rising Star Assistant Professor Farimah Farahmandi has received $290k in funding from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in support of her efforts to equip the Silicon Design & Assurance (SiDA) lab with the ZeBu Emulator framework, manufactured by Synopsys. The project is funded by the AFOSR DURIP Program. ZeBu, short for “Zero Bugs Emulation,” is a cutting-edge technology that plays a pivotal role in the development and validation of complex hardware and software systems, enabling engineers to emulate and test their designs before the lengthy step of building physical prototypes.

A critical issue in the current globalized semiconductor manufacturing sector is hardware security and trust assessment. As the bulk of manufacturing in the sector has long been outsourced to offshore foundries, the authenticity of the final manufactured products has become harder and harder to ascertain. The increasing complexity of modern integrated circuits and system-on-chips has only made the problem worse.

The use of an emulation tool like ZeBu allows developers and researchers to significantly accelerate the product development cycle, minimizes security risks associated with potential security vulnerabilities and bugs, and reduces the cost of diagnosis and patching. By providing a virtual environment that closely replicates the target hardware, tools like the ZeBu framework empower hardware security researchers to detect security vulnerabilities early in the development process, resulting in more secure and trustworthy end products.

The SiDA Lab

The SiDA Lab supports five postdoctoral fellows, thirteen PhD students, and many master’s and undergraduate researchers in the area of hardware security verification and validation (SV&V). With the addition of the ZeBu framework to her lab, Dr. Farahmandi hopes to help her students develop skills in various aspects of hardware security and trust, including trustable hardware, counterfeit detection, security primitives, side-channel attacks and countermeasures, and reverse engineering. Moreover, acquiring the ZeBu Emulator will enable Dr. Farahmandi‚Äôs research group to develop virtual labs to promote interest from undergraduates and high school students.