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CECS Team Places Third in 2021 Cyber Security Awareness Week Logic-Locking Conquest

Published November 16, 2021

Amon Rezaei

Reheel

Jordan Maynard

A team from the CSULB Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science placed third in the 2021 Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) Logic Locking Conquest (LLC). The team, CSULB undergraduate computer engineering major Jordan Maynard and Raheel Afsharmazayejani, a volunteer researcher in the CSULB Computer Architecture, Reliability, and Security Laboratory (CARS-Lab), worked under the supervision of CECS Assistant Professor Amin Rezaei.

The CSAW-LLC global competition challenges participants to attack integrated circuits secured with complex logic-locking methods, a revolutionary technique for protecting hardware intellectual property from myriad security threats such as piracy and overproduction.

The 2021 challenge spotlighted on redaction based on field-programmable gate arrays, a novel technique to lock critical components in a logic design with the help of FPGAs. In the qualifying round, participants were provided with a selection of FPGA fabrics with varying complexity and key sizes. The challenge was to recover the bitstream (the correct key) or otherwise recreate the functionality of the design in the FPGA.

Competing with PhD students from the world's top universities, Maynard and Afsharmazayjani were able to recover the correct key of all the given benchmarks in a short time. They were invited to the final round, and presented a poster to a panel of judges virtually on Nov. 12. The judges ranked their findings third among the finalists. 

“That was a proud advisor moment,” said Rezaei. “I congratulated the team's hard work and shared the good news with the CECS department chair.

Rezaei said the team had six weeks to work on the challenge. Maynard and Afsharmazayejani had regular meetings with him to discuss their findings and seek advice for the next steps.

CSAW is the most comprehensive student-run cybersecurity event in the world, featuring several cyber competitions, workshops, and industry events, to raise awareness about security issues, empower students with networking opportunities, and encourage study and career paths in cybersecurity.