IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration Systems (TVLSI)
System-on-chip (SoC) developers utilize Intellectual Property (IP) cores from third-party vendors due to increasing design complexity, cost as well as time-to-market constraints. A typical SoC consists of a wide variety of IP cores (such as processor, memory, controller, FPGA, etc.) that interact using a Network-on-Chip (NoC). This global trend of designing SoCs using third-party IPs raises serious concerns about security vulnerabilities. Since NoC facilitates communication between all IPs in an SoC, NoC is the ideal place for any hardware Trojans to hide and launch a plethora of attacks. Due to the resource-constrained nature of SoCs, developing security solutions against such attacks is a major challenge. In particular, in an eavesdropping attack, a Trojan infected router copies packets transferred through the NoC and re-routes the duplicated packets to an accompanying malicious application running on another IP in an attempt to extract confidential information. While authenticated encryption can thwart such attacks, it incurs unacceptable overhead in resource-constrained SoCs. In this paper, we propose a lightweight alternative defense based on digital watermarking techniques. We develop theoretical models to provide security guarantees. Experiments using realistic SoC models and diverse applications demonstrate that our approach can significantly outperform state-of-the-art methods.