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Using Blockchain to Secure the Semiconductor Supply Chain

July 26, 2023
Government funding continues to go to projects aimed at using blockchain to secure the world’s semiconductor supply chains.

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Earlier this year, blockchain solutions provider SIMBA Chain received $30 million in STRATFI funds from the U.S. Air Force (USAF). The funds are now being used to develop and deploy blockchain applications in supply chain management. “Our new project for the USAF will pave the way to more efficient and comprehensive management of assets within the Department of Defense supply chain,” said SIMBA’s Stacy Betlej-Amodeo, in a press release.

Previously, SIMBA Chain developed various blockchain applications to improve USAF activities, including the tokenization of the organization’s budget to enhance accounting, as well as the tracking of critical components vital to the air service branch. The company says that the new  STRATFI funding will “significantly accelerate development of the SIMBA Blocks platform while delivering in-transit visibility that supports the USAF strategic mission.”

SIMBA previously worked with other divisions of the Department of Defense (DoD), including a $9.5 million U.S. Navy contract in 2020 related to secure communications. The firm isn’t the only blockchain startup to offer such services to the military. Constellation Network has also worked with the DoD and other partners for secure data transmission, as well as partnered with the USAF on a data security solution through blockchain encryption.

Throwing their Hats into the Ring

The US Air Force and SIMBA aren’t the only ones focused on using blockchain in supply chain management. Also this year, Auburn University’s Ujjwal Guin, an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering, joined a $1.8 million study to explore security solutions for semiconductor supply chains.

“Rapid advancements in the semiconductor industry have enabled the broad adoption of electronics into multiple sectors of society, including commercial, industrial and defense spaces, often improving the quality of life while increasing business efficiency,” Joe McAdory writes in a university publication.

“The globalization of electronics, however, opens a Pandora’s Box of threats with untrusted products, counterfeit integrated circuits, intellectual property piracy, cloning and other malicious modifications,” he adds.

Focused on resolving some of these potential issues. Guin co-authored Securing Semiconductor Supply Chains and Networks using Zero-Knowledge Proofs and Blockchain and earned a $1.826 million grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFSOR).

Working with a group of professors from USC and Cornell/Tel-Aviv University, Guin proposed novel solutions using zero-knowledge proofs and blockchain technologies to enable security in electronic hardware. A zero-knowledge system allows one party to prove to another party that they know a “secret,” but without revealing any information about the secret itself.

Guin’s proposal also focuses on enabling routing data securely over dynamic communication networks. “Our objective is to integrate zero-knowledge proofs into blockchain to address various hardware and network threats,” said Guin, who adds that zero-knowledge proofs help secure the Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems against malicious adversaries by creating zero-knowledge properties.

Ultimately, Guin says blockchain provides a way to build a tamper-resistant ledger that adversaries can’t modify. “It provides the much-needed capability to trace back the origin and the complex distribution process of each electronic chip and device in this globalized microelectronic supply chain,” he told the university’s publication.

Paving the Way

According to semiconductor procurement platform Vyrian, the adoption of blockchain technology in the semiconductor industry offers several advantages and benefits. For example, it says blockchain’s cryptographic algorithms and consensus mechanisms provide robust security against data tampering and unauthorized access.

“As scalability and interoperability improve, blockchain-based solutions have the potential to revolutionize supply chain management, intellectual property protection and anti-counterfeiting efforts,” Vyrian adds. “Continued research, development and collaboration among industry stakeholders will pave the way for innovative applications and the widespread adoption of blockchain technology.”

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