Revealing cluster hierarchy in gate-level ics using block diagrams and cluster estimates of circuit embeddings

Burcin Cakir, Sharad Malik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Contemporary integrated circuits (ICs) are increasingly being constructed using intellectual property blocks (IPs) obtained from third parties in a globalized supply chain. The increased vulnerability to adversarial changes during this untrusted supply chain raises concerns about the integrity of the end product. The difference in the levels of abstraction between the initial specification and the final available circuit design poses a challenge for analyzing the final circuit for malicious insertions. Reverse engineering presents one way to help reduce the difficulty of circuit analysis and inspection. In this work, we provide a framework that given (i) a gate-level netlist of a design and (ii) a block diagram for the design with relative sizes of the blocks, outputs a matching between the partitions of the circuit and blocks in the block diagram. We first compute a geometric embedding for each node in the circuit and then apply a clustering algorithm on the embedding features to obtain circuit partitions. Each partition is then mapped to the high-level blocks in the block diagram. These partitions can then be further analyzed for malicious insertions with much reduced complexity in comparison with the full chip. We tested our algorithm on different designs with varying sizes to evaluate the efficacy of algorithm, including the open-source processor OpenSparc T1, and showed that we can successfully match over 90% of gates to their corresponding blocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
JournalACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Clustering
  • Partitioning
  • Reverse engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Revealing cluster hierarchy in gate-level ics using block diagrams and cluster estimates of circuit embeddings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this