The Big Hack Explained: Detection and Prevention of PCB Supply Chain Implants


Over the past two decades, globalized outsourcing in the semiconductor supply chain has lowered manufacturing costs and shortened the time-to-market for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). However, such outsourcing has rendered the printed circuit boards (PCBs) vulnerable to malicious activities and alterations on a global scale. In this article, we take an in-depth look into one such attack, called the “Big Hack,” that was recently reported by Bloomberg Buisnessweek. The article provides background on the Big Hack from three perspectives: an attacker, a security investigator, and the societal impacts. This study provides details on vulnerabilities in the modern PCB supply chain, the possible attacks, and the existing and emerging countermeasures. The necessity for novel visual inspection techniques for PCB assurance is emphasized throughout the article. Further, a review of various imaging modalities, image analysis algorithms, and open research challenges are provided for automated visual inspection.

ACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems
Olivia Dizon-Paradis
Olivia Dizon-Paradis
Graduate Research Assistant

My research interests include artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, and reinforcement learning