Deconstructing the Circuit Board Sandwich: Effective Techniques for PCB Reverse Engineering

Presented at DEF CON 22 (2014), Aug. 10, 2014, 1 p.m. (60 minutes)

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), used within nearly every electronic product in the world, are physical carriers for electronic components and provide conductive pathways between them. Created as a sandwich of alternating copper and insulating substrate layers, PCBs can reveal clues about system functionality based on layout heuristics or how components are interconnected. By accessing each individual copper layer of a PCB, one can reconstruct a complete circuit layout or create a schematic diagram of the design. In this presentation, Joe examines a variety of inexpensive, home-based solutions and state-of-the-art technologies that can facilitate PCB reverse engineering through solder mask removal, delayering, and non-destructive imaging. The work is based on Joe's Research and Analysis of PCB Deconstruction Techniques project performed as part of DARPA's Cyber Fast Track program.


  • Joe Grand / Kingpin - Grand Idea Studio   as Joe Grand aka Kingpin
    Joe Grand is an electrical engineer and hardware hacker. He runs Grand Idea Studio ( and specializes in the design of consumer and hobbyist embedded systems. He created the electronic badges for DEFCON 14 through 18 and was a co-host of Discovery Channel's Prototype This. Back in the day, he was a member of the infamous hacker group L0pht Heavy Industries. Twitter: @joegrand Web:


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