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What is a Hardware Trojan?

A hardware Trojan (HT) is defined as a malicious, intentional modification of a circuit design that results in undesired behavior when the circuit is deployed. SoCs that are ‘infected’ by a hardware Trojan may experience changes in their functionality or specification, may leak sensitive information, or may experience degraded or unreliable performance. Hardware Trojan poses a serious threat to any hardware design being deployed in a critical operation.

As the hardware Trojans are inserted at the hardware level, software-level countermeasures may be inadequate to address the threat posed by HT. Also, detection of Trojans in a hardware design is challenging as there is no golden version against which to compare a given design during verification. In theory, an effective way to detect a Trojan is to activate the Trojan and observe its effects, but a Trojan’s type, size, and location are unknown, and its activation is, most likely, a rare event. A Trojan can be, therefore, well hidden during the normal functional operation of the chip and activated only when the triggering condition is applied.

More information is available regarding software trojans.

Published on Mon 28 April 2014 by Randy Nugent in Security with tag(s): hardware trojan