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Electronic Circuit Anti-Tamper Conformal Coating


OBJECTIVE: The objective is to develop an innovative conformal coating for integrated circuits that achieves a higher anti-tamper (AT) level of protection without compromising circuit performance. DESCRIPTION: Department of Defense (DoD) weapon system managers identify critical program information (CPI) that is closely held. When CPI is found in the software that resides within the weapon system"s components then it is referred to as critical technology (CT). CT found in weapon systems used by the United States Navy (USN) and allies (through foreign military sales) is required to be protected from theft, exploitation or unintentional transfer through the implementation of Anti-Tamper (AT) technologies. AT technology is technology that prevents or delays exploitation of United States (U.S.) weapon system CT (ref 1). The use of AT technologies prevents or slows an adversary"s attack on a U.S. weapon system by increasing the time it takes for them to reverse engineer and design a counter to the system. This enables the weapon system"s capability advantage to remain intact for a longer period of time improving performance and capability. Current weapon systems computers containing CT use hardware and software techniques to protect against reverse engineering. Today CT is protected by software encryption or containers that prevent physical access to the equipment where the CT is stored. These solutions are inadequate to counter recent reverse engineering advances such as most indirect electronic probing attacks. Modern protective coatings used in industry are unable to defend against these recent advances without affecting circuit performance. An improvement to the current AT methods is sought to physically protect the CT at the board or individual component level (such as a circuit card or microchip) through the use of a conformal coating. The conformal coating would be applied to the circuit board or to the discrete components found on the board. Ideally this coating would not be detectable by visual means and would not affect performance of the electronic device or board that it covers. A significant technical hurdle is overcoming the heat dissipation requirements of the affected electronic circuitry (ref 2). Most coatings designed for circuit board application have heat transfer characteristics that negatively impact performance of the encased devices. The coating will need to meet certain parameters. It must be able to detect reverse engineering activities. This includes direct mechanical and electronic probing activities that are intended to reveal circuit designs. Examples of these techniques include x-ray, scanning electron microscopy and focused electron and ion beam utilization (ref 3). Indirect reverse engineering attacks also need to be prevented. An example is a simple power analysis; in which a device"s low-level self-radiated energy is sensed and analyzed, thus giving insight to the operation of that electronic component. The conformal coating will block this type of attack. It must also be capable of shielding, hiding, or isolating the board"s radiated RF energy (ref 4). Upon detection of a tamper event the coating will be capable of sending an alert signal to a monitoring electronic component. The coating will be capable of attaining all required parameters without the need for an external power supply. Current industrial printed circuit board coatings in use today include silicone- , urethane- and acrylic-based films (ref 5). These films impede adequate heat transfer making them undesirable for the uses envisioned for this topic. They are also incapable of detecting reverse engineering activities. Technology areas of interest would be in recent advances of nano-structures or related material deposition techniques. With this solution in-place, critical USN warfighting advantages and capabilities are preserved for longer periods of time because the adversary is delayed or prevented from developing successful defenses. The desired solution will not diminish the performance of the electronics; so indirectly, performance is improved since other solutions would likely reduce performance of a weapon system. PHASE I: The company will develop a feasibility concept for an anti-tamper conformal coating of electronic circuits that meets the requirements described above. The company will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and will establish that the concept can be feasibly developed into a useful product for the Navy. Feasibility will be established through material testing and analytical modeling. The small business will provide a Phase II development plan that must address technical risk reduction and provides performance goals and key technical milestones. PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II development plan, the small business will develop a prototype for evaluation. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability to meet the performance goals defined in the Phase II development plan. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and modeling or analytical methods over the required range of parameters including numerous deployment cycles. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet Navy requirements. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use. PHASE III: The company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. The company will develop an Electronic Circuit Anti-Tamper Conformal Coating according to the Phase II development plan for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Electronic systems throughout DoD and the commercial sector frequently process classified, sensitive, or proprietary information. Consequently private industry also has an interest in protecting its electronic data from tampering activities. Banking, research & development, and computer manufacturing are just some examples of where this technology would be used in the commercial sector. REFERENCES: 1."Defense Acquisition Guidebook: Section 8.5.3."Defense Acquisition University. 2012. Department of Defense. 19 September 2012 2. Licari, James J. and Hughes, Laura A. Handbook of Polymer Coatings for Electronics: Chemistry, Technology and Applications; Second Edition. Park Ridge NY: William Andrew Publishing, LLC, 1990. 3. Utke, Ivo; Moshkalev, Stanislav & Russell, Phillip; Editors. Nanofabrication Using Focused Ion and Electron Beams: Principles and Applications. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 4. Mangard, Stefan; Oswald, Elisabeth & Popp, Thomas. Power Analysis Attacks: Revealing the Secrets of Smart Cards. New York: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 2012. 5. Horrocks, Hal."Conformal Coating Removal Techniques."NEPCON West. 1997. 3 December 2012.
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