Reverse engineering digital ICs through geometric embedding of circuit graphs

Burcin Cakir, Sharad Malik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Outsourcing of design and manufacturing processes makes integrated circuits (ICs) vulnerable to adversarial changes and raises concerns about their integrity. Reverse engineering the manufactured netlist helps identify malicious insertions. In this article, we present an automated approach that, given a reference design description with high-level blocks, infers these blocks in an untrusted gate-level (test) implementation. Using the graph connectivity of the netlists, we compute a geometric embedding for each wire in the circuits, which, then, is used to compute a bipartite matching between the nodes of the two designs and identify high-level blocks in the test circuit. Experiments to evaluate the efficacy of the proposed technique on various-sized designs, including the multi-core processor OpenSparc T1, show that it can correctly match over 90% of gates in the test circuit to their corresponding block in the reference model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA50
JournalACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Clustering
  • Partitioning
  • Reverse engineering


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