Feature Topics

Hardware security

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This old adage still applies in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or for autonomous and connected vehicles and key critical infrastructures. Even substantial investments in software security are no guarantee for a comprehensively secure system. Real security for Industry 4.0 applications, from self-driving cars to intelligent transport networks, can only be achieved with truly comprehensive hardware security.

To prevent IP theft, manipulation, and network attacks, an end-to-end security concept is required that starts with the very hardware. Smart and connected products and systems need secure and trustworthy software and hardware. They need to be able to rely on the data collected or actions executed by electronic components like the sensors and actuators that are manufactured and used in Industry 4.0.

The challenge

Due to the sheer complexity of developing and producing high-tech electronics, the value chains of electronic products have come to span the entire globe, from original product development to the production and the supply chains involved in making them. However, this makes traceability difficult, especially for safety-critical electronic components.

The solution

In order to ensure the safety of self-driving vehicles or smart and autonomous production systems in industrial plants or critical communication infrastructures, it must be possible to trace where the electronic components come from, what they do, and how they are constructed.

Trustworthiness of electronic hardware

Trust in electronics means that the hardware in the products and systems is manufactured in such a way that unexpected behavior or security incidents can be ruled out as far as possible. Electronics can be considered trustworthy if they leave no backdoors or weak points open to attackers and manipulation.

Our services

Working with several other research institutions, Fraunhofer IZM provides solutions for the challenges of hardware security:

  • Wireless sensor networks with hardware encryption and key pre-distribution when producing individual sensor nodes
  • Sensor technology for tamper detection: active mesh, temperature, X-rays, Focussed Ion Beams (FIB)
  • Reliable and energy-efficient power sources for defensive measures
  • Zeroization
  • Connection of wafers with toughened glass layers to allow the self-destruction of chip structures in response to tampering attempts
  • Shielding of packages from EM fields and photoemission (PE) from the interior to protect against side-channel attacks
  • Integration of security functions in the communication bus
  • Printed invisible connectors
  • Hardware security integrity
  • Photonics

Research focus

Fraunhofer IZM is involved in several research projects as part of the German flagship initiative "Trustworthy Electronics (ZEUS)". It contributes its expertise and know-how to ensure the trustworthiness of electronic hardware in three key areas:

  • Detection of counterfeit electronic components
  • Integration of security features in hardware (protection/concealment)
  • Infrastructures designed to ensure trustworthiness during production

Selected Projects

Platform for trustworthy electronics and secure value chains


The "Velektronik" joint project of the Research Fab Microelectronics Germany (FMD) aims to create a platform for trustworthy electronics. It addresses overarching issues in the three pillars of the design, production, and analysis of the microelectronics value chain. The focus is on contributing to the necessary standardization, connecting the research projects and maintaining and providing the expertise gained from the individual projects.

Duration: 03/2021 – 02/2024

Funding code: 16ME0215

Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Know-how protection for trustworthy heterogeneous electronic systems with chiplets


VE-REWAL: The VE-REWAL project explores the potential of spreading chip functions over several parts, so-called chiplets, which are connected by interposers in the chip package. This separation may help prevent the theft of intellectual property, as no single part represents the entire functionality, and an attacker may only have access to a single production site.

Duration: 05/2021 – 04/2024

Funding code: 16ME0308

Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Download - Fact sheet (.pdf/ 1,5MB)

© Fraunhofer IZM

Heterogeneous photonics electronics platform for trustworthy open-source processors


The VE-Silhouette project works to create interfaces for the integration of photonics electronics and electronic circuits, including open-source processors. The project also deals with the joint production of the two different technologies.

Duration: 05/2021 – 04/2024

Funding code: 16ME0314

Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Download - Fact sheet (.pdf/ 800KB)

© Fraunhofer IZM

Secure and intelligent electronic systems for trustworthy electronic products in Industry 4.0

SiEvEI 4.0

The joint SiEvEI 4.0 project aims to develop a concept for tamper-proof traceability in the production chain of electronic assemblies and components.

Duration: 03/2020 – 08/2023

Funding code: 16ME0005

Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Download - Fact sheet (.pdf/ 1,4MB)

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Video - State monitoring sensor systems for assemblies

You can trust us!

If you are interested in our solutions or the development of innovative approaches to improve the trustworthiness of electronic hardware, please contact us.


REALIZM Blog series “Hardware security” – Part 2

A trustworthy value chain in manufacturing

Making sure that electronic components and assemblies are genuine and fully traceable through their production chain, the researchers active in the SiEvEI 4.0 project are putting several protection mechanisms to use.


REALIZM Blog series “Hardware security” – Part 1

Threats and protection mechanisms for the trustworthiness of electronic hardware

With increasing globalization and more complex supply chains, electronic hardware is also becoming more susceptible to manipulation. Jan Hefer, a member of the RF & Smart Sensor Systems department, is working hard on creating “trustworthy electronics” at Fraunhofer IZM.