Title page for ETD etd-06072010-144645

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Gora, Michael Arthur
Author's Email Address gora@vt.edu
URN etd-06072010-144645
Title Securing Software Intellectual Property on Commodity and Legacy Embedded Systems
Degree Master of Engineering
Department Electrical and Computer Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Schaumont, Patrick Robert Committee Chair
Marchany, Randolph C. Committee Member
Tront, Joseph G. Committee Member
  • Secure Embedded Systems
  • Software
  • Intellectual Property
  • Firmware
  • Security
  • FPGA
  • Design Flow
  • Physical Unclonable Function
Date of Defense 2010-06-01
Availability unrestricted
The proliferation of embedded systems into nearly every aspect of modern infrastructure and society has seen their deployment in such diverse roles as monitoring the power grid and processing commercial payments. Software intellectual property (SWIP) is a critical component of these increasingly complex systems and represents a significant investment to its developers. However, deeply immersed in their environment, embedded systems are difficult to secure. As a result, developers want to ensure that their SWIP is protected from being reverse engineered or stolen by unauthorized parties.

Many techniques have been proposed to address the issue of SWIP protection for embedded systems. These range from secure memory components to complete shifts in processor architectures. While powerful, these approaches often require the development of systems from the ground up or the application of specialized and often expensive hardware components. As a result they are poorly suited to address the security concerns of legacy embedded systems or systems based on commodity components.

This work explores the protection of SWIP on heavily constrained, legacy and commodity embedded systems. We accomplish this by evaluating a generic embedded system to identify the security concerns in the context of SWIP protection. The evaluation is applied to determine the limitations of a software only approach on a real world legacy embedded system that lacks any specialized security hardware features. We improve upon this system by developing a prototype system using only commodity components. Finally we propose a Portable Embedded Software Intellectual Property Security (PESIPS) system that can easily be deployed as a framework on both legacy and commodity systems.

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