Siddarth Garg, 34, is an electrical andcomputer engineer at New York University.
It might sound like the premise of a bad supervillain flick, but it’s all too feasible: Hackers can tweak a microchip so when a certain trigger occurs, it throws open the gates for attackers to commandeer—or destroy—the device in which that chip is embedded. All it takes is one saboteur at the factory, and you’vegot the kind of scenario no one (particularly the Department of Defense) wants to consider. What’s worse: After chip companies send their designs to manufacture, it’s almost impossible to tell if the final product has been tampered with
So Siddharth Garg came up with asolution: Strategically divvy up thechip’s fabrication among many manufacturers. That way, nobody can know they’ve got the piece that hackers could take advantageof. Though the idea of breaking a chip’s manufacture into pieces already existed, Garg’s method does it using high-level math rather than doing it randomly, which guarantees a far greater level of security without spiking the cost of production. It also helps stem counterfeiting. Typically, chipmakers attempt to prevent rip-offs and foil corporate espionage simply by disguising crucial areas of the chip. But without a complete, intact chip to steal from, there’s no blueprint for a fake.Now some of the biggest players in the business—Boeing among them—are using his method to protect their chips.This article was originally published in theSeptember/October 2016 issueofPopular Science.Meet 9 more of the year’s most brilliant young scientists and engineershere.