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Software intellectual property (SWIP) is a critical component of increasingly complex field programmable gate arrays (FPGA)-based system-on-chip (SOC) designs. As a result, developers want to ensure that their Software Intellectual Property (SWIP) is protected from being exposed to or tampered with by unauthorized parties. By restricting the execution of SWIP to a single trusted FPGA platform, SWIP binding addresses developers' concerns about maintaining control of their intellectual property and the market position it affords. This work proposes a novel design flow for SWIP binding on a commodity FPGA platform lacking specialized hardcore security facilities. We accomplish this by leveraging the qualities of a Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) and a tight integration of hardware and software security features. A prototype implementation demonstrates our design flow's ability to successfully protect software by encryption using a 128 bit FPGA-unique key extracted from a PUF. Based on this proof of concept, a solution to perform secure remote software updates, a common challenge in embedded systems, is proposed to showcase the practicality and flexibility of the design flow.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2010