Moore's Lobby Podcast

Episode 28 | How DARPA Stops IC Hardware Hackers in Their Tracks: Insights from Serge Leef

Episode #28 / 1:01:55 / August 24, 2021 by Daniel Bogdanoff
Episode Sponsor: Infineon Technologies

There are millions of unsecured devices on the market today. Whose responsibility is it to design secure silicon, anyway?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. How do you get hardware engineers to attend a seminar about security?

Tell them it's a free buffet and then lock the doors behind them before you start the slide deck.

To put it mildly, security is not hardware designers' favorite topic. Is the answer to automate security directly into the design process?

Join our new host for Season 3, Daniel Bogdanoff, for this episode of Moore's Lobby that kicks off with DARPA Program Manager at the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO), Serge Leef. Leef's storied background in design automation gives him a unique perspective on his current work as someone who helps select promising projects in the competitive world of DARPA funding.

Tune in to get a clear breakdown of the security issues facing hardware devices, including a look at the types of attacks DARPA has on its radar. You'll hear about the similarities and differences of securing missile control systems compared to smart toilets. And, perhaps most importantly, you'll be faced with the very real question of whether hardware security is something we should entrust to design engineers at all.

Along the way, you'll get answers to burning questions you never knew you had, like:

  • How is a DARPA program manager like a movie producer?
  • How is IC-level hardware design like fluoride? And
  • How is designing for security like selling vitamins?


A Big Thank You to This Episode's Sponsor


Meet Serge Leef

Serge Leef is a Program Manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) at the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA. 

Before joining DARPA, Leef had a successful career in the world of design automation. His specialty in CAE/CAD design included work at Mentor Graphics (now Siemens EDA), Microchip, Silicon Graphics, and Intel. Notably, Leef's interests have long centered around identifying and developing cutting-edge technologies. Between 2010 and 2018, he served as a Vice President of New Ventures at Mentor, where he focused on systems-oriented markest.

Leef's research interests include computer architecture, chip design tools, simulation, synthesis, semiconductor intellectual property (IP), cyber-physical modeling, distributed systems, secure design flows, and supply chain management. He is also interested in the facilitation of startup ecosystems and business aspects of technology.



Leef attended Arizona State University for both his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and his master's degree in computer science.