Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is also used by businesses to bring existing physical geometry into digital product development environments, to make a digital 3D record of their own products, or to assess competitors' products. It is used to analyze how a product works, what it does, what components it has; estimate costs; identify potential patent infringement; etc.

Value engineering, a related activity that is also used by businesses, involves deconstructing and analyzing products. However, the objective is to find opportunities for cost-cutting.

Reverse engineering of printed circuit boards involves recreating fabrication data for a particular circuit board. This is done to allow benchmarking, and support for legacy systems.

Reverse engineering of software can be accomplished by various methods. The three main groups of software reverse engineering are

Software classification is the process of identifying similarities between different software binaries (such as two different versions of the same binary) used to detect code relations between software samples. The task was traditionally done manually for several reasons (such as patch analysis for vulnerability detection and copyright infringement), but it can now be done somewhat automatically for large numbers of samples.

This method is being used mostly for long and thorough reverse engineering tasks (complete analysis of a complex algorithm or big piece of software). In general, statistical classification is considered to be a hard problem, which is also true for software classification, and so few solutions/tools that handle this task well.

The first step after images have been taken with a SEM is stitching the images together, which is necessary because each layer cannot be captured by a single shot. A SEM needs to sweep across the area of the circuit and take several hundred images to cover the entire layer. Image stitching takes as input several hundred pictures and outputs a single properly-overlapped picture of the complete layer.

Next, the stitched layers need to be aligned because the sample, after etching, cannot be put into the exact same position relative to the SEM each time. Therefore, the stitched versions will not overlap in the correct fashion, as on the real circuit. Usually, three corresponding points are selected, and a transformation applied on the basis of that.

To extract the circuit structure, the aligned, stitched images need to be segmented, which highlights the important circuitry and separates it from the uninteresting background and insulating materials.

Finally, the wires can be traced from one layer to the next, and the netlist of the circuit, which contains all of the circuit's information, can be reconstructed.

Reverse engineering applies primarily to gaining understanding of a process or artifact in which the manner of its construction, use, or internal processes has not been made clear by its creator.