Power management circuits are employed in most electronic integrated systems, including applications for automotive, IoT, and smart wearables. Oftentimes, these power management circuits become a single point of system failure, and since they are present in most modern electronic devices, they become a target for hardware security attacks. Digital circuits are typically more prone to security attacks compared to analog circuits, but malfunctions in digital circuitry can affect the analog performance/parameters of power management circuits. This research studies the effect that these hacks will have on the analog performance of power circuits, specifically linear and switching power regulators/converters. Apart from security attacks, these circuits suffer from performance degradations due to temperature, aging, and load stress. Power management circuits usually consist of regulators or converters that regulate the load’s voltage supply by employing a feedback loop, and the stability of the feedback loop is a critical parameter in the system design. Oftentimes, the passive components employed in these circuits shift in value over varying conditions and may cause instability within the power converter. Therefore, variations in the passive components, as well as malicious hardware security attacks, can degrade regulator performance and affect the system’s stability. The traditional ways of detecting phase margin, which indicates system stability, employ techniques that require the converter to be in open loop, and hence can’t be used while the system is deployed in-the-field under normal operation. Aging of components and security attacks may occur after the power management systems have completed post-production test and have been deployed, and they may not cause catastrophic failure of the system, hence making them difficult to detect. These two issues of component variations and security attacks can be detected during normal operation over the product lifetime, if the frequency response of the power converter can be monitored in-situ and in-field. This work presents a method to monitor the phase margin (stability) of a power converter without affecting its normal mode of operation by injecting a white noise/ pseudo random binary sequence (PRBS). Furthermore, this work investigates the analog performance parameters, including phase margin, that are affected by various digital hacks on the control circuitry associated with power converters. A case study of potential hardware attacks is completed for a linear low-dropout regulator (LDO).
- Monitoring for Reliable and Secure Power Management Integrated Circuits via Built-In Self-Test