Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is the general process of analyzing a technology specifically to determine how it was designed or how it operates. Reverse engineering is a valid method of benchmarking against competition, identifying patent infringement, understanding new technology, improving on prior art technology, developing interoperable systems, or developing alternatives to obsolete or unavailable systems.

In the analysis of an electronic system IST primarily used “black box” reverse engineering techniques. In "black box" reverse engineering, systems are observed without examining internal structure, while in "white box" reverse engineering the inner workings of the system are inspected.
Black box reverse engineering requires meticulous analysis of system which ultimately informs the functionality of a new or improved system. IST follows this process.
  • The first step is to determine client requirements. Some clients are interested in complete understanding of the system in questions while other clients may only have interest in a single aspect.
  • The second step is an indirect study of how the system works. This process often begins with a literature search which includes available specification, journal articles, product reviews, and/or patents. This provides a meta-theory from which to proceed in the analysis.
  • The third step is direct observation of how the electronic system works. What and how observations are made is informed by the meta-theory. In complex system this requires developing electronics to stimulate inputs and capture outputs. This is done on a system, board, and/or component level.
  • From the captured data a model is developed to explain the theory of operation.
  • To verify the theory of operation, a functional prototype system is designed and benchmarked against the original system. This often forms the basis for the development of a new or improved product.
Typically a reference design is provided to the client, which can include:
  • Schematics
  • Part lists
  • Micro code
  • Layout
  • Theory of operation
  • Functional prototype

IST has successfully reverse engineered a number of flat panel display systems to determine complex image enhancement techniques including dynamic gamma correction, motion artifact reduction, and automatic power level correction.