Uncaging Microchips: Techniques for Chip Preparation

Presented at 31C3 (2014), Dec. 28, 2014, 11:30 a.m. (60 minutes)

An entertaining, thrilling and educational journey through the world of chip preparation. Deep insight into amateur- as well as professional methods and equipment is given, for the first, most important steps for analysis and attacks on dedicated hardware.

Marcus Janke and Dr. Peter Laackmann focus on the first challenge a smart card hacker would encounter – the appropriate preparation of a microchip from its environment for further analysis and attacks.

The direct sight on microchips, especially on their secured variants, is not only impressive and informative, but will also open up interesting opportunities for various security attacks, like demonstrated in their 30C3 overview "25 Years of Smart Card Attacks".Therefore, useful ways of releasing the chips from their packages are needed in order to get access to the chip's surface without destroying the device.

The authors open up their bag of tricks, filled with physical and chemical methods that can be used to carefully liberate the silicon from its environment. These packages include smart cards, tags as well as standard packages for microcontrollers and special enclosures.

Creative methods for amateurs and inexpensive ways for "domestic use" are depicted, including the manufacture of specialized devices and the production of dedicated preparation chemicals. For comparison, professional methods are presented in parallel, giving insight into today's industrial processes of chip preparation for reverse engineering.

The authors look back to over 25 years of private security research and nearly 20 years of professional engagement. They held their first chipcard talks and workshops 1991-93 at the CCC congress in the Eidelstädter Bürgerhaus.


  • Marcus Janke
    Since 1991 Marcus Janke has been working on the conceptions, development and realizations of smart card systems. As author and consultant, he published numerous publications covering the sector of smart card security and held several lectures in this field. At Infineon Technologies AG, he currently leads the Product and System Security department.
  • Peter Laackmann
    Dr. Peter Laackmann has been working for the smart card industry, as well as for print and TV media as a consultant since 1991. He has written numerous publications covering chip card technology and security. He currently holds the position as Senior Principal in the Chipcard and Security Division of Infineon Technologies AG.


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