HAL – The Hardware Analyzer

HAL – The Hardware Analyzer

HAL is a comprehensive reverse engineering and manipulation framework for gate-level netlists focusing on efficiency, extend-ability and portability. It comes with a fully-fledged plugin system, allowing to introduce arbitrary functionalities to the core.


  • Natural directed graph representation of netlist elements and their connections
  • Support for custom gate libraries
  • High performance thanks to optimized C++ core
  • Modularity: write your own C++ Plugins for efficient netlist analysis and manipulation (e.g. via graph algorithms)
  • A feature-rich GUI allowing for visual netlist inspection and interactive analysis
  • An integrated Python shell to exploratively interact with netlist elements and to interface plugins from the GUI
  • Update v1.1.0 Support for Xilinx Unisim, Xilinx Simprim, Synopsys 90nm, GSCLIB 3.0 and UMC 0.18µm libraries is now added

Quick Start

Install or build HAL and start the GUI via hal -g. You can list all available options via hal [--help|-h]. We included some example netlists in examples together with the implementation of the respective example gate library in plugins/example_gate_library. For instructions to create your own gate library and other useful tutorials, take a look at the wiki.

Load a library from the examples directory and start exploring the graphical representation. Use the integrated Python shell or the Python script window to interact. Both feature (limited) autocomplete functionality.

Let’s list all lookup tables and print their Boolean functions:

from hal_plugins import libquine_mccluskey

qm_plugin = libquine_mccluskey.quine_mccluskey()

for gate in netlist.get_gates():
if “LUT” in gate.type:
print(gate.name + ” (id “+str(gate.id) + “, type ” + gate.type + “)”)
print(” ” + str(len(gate.input_pin_types)) + “-to-” + str(len(gate.output_pin_types)) + ” LUT”)
boolean_functions = qm_plugin.get_boolean_function_str(gate, False)
for pin in boolean_functions:
print(” ” + pin + “: “+boolean_functions[pin])

For the example netlist fsm.vhd this prints:

FSM_sequential_STATE_REG_1_i_2_inst (id 5, type LUT6)
6-to-1 LUT
O: (~I0 I1 ~I2 I3 I4 ~I5) + (I0 ~I2 I3 I4 I5)

FSM_sequential_STATE_REG_0_i_2_inst (id 3, type LUT6)
6-to-1 LUT
O: (I2 I3 I4 ~I5) + (I1 I2) + (I0 I1) + (I1 ~I3) + (I1 ~I4) + (I1 ~I5)

FSM_sequential_STATE_REG_0_i_3_inst (id 4, type LUT6)
6-to-1 LUT
O: (~I1 ~I2 I3 ~I4 I5) + (I0 I5) + (I0 I4) + (I0 I3) + (I0 I1) + (I0 ~I2)

OUTPUT_BUF_0_inst_i_1_inst (id 18, type LUT1)
1-to-1 LUT
O: (~I0)

OUTPUT_BUF_1_inst_i_1_inst (id 20, type LUT2)
2-to-1 LUT
O: (~I0 I1) + (I0 ~I1)

FSM_sequential_STATE_REG_1_i_3_inst (id 6, type LUT6)
6-to-1 LUT
O: (I0 I2 I4) + (~I1 I2 I4) + (I0 ~I3 I4) + (~I1 ~I3 I4) + (I0 I4 ~I5) + (~I1 I4 ~I5) + (I2 I5) + (I2 I3) + (I1 I5) + (I1 I3) + (I0 I1) + (~I0 I5) + (~I0 I3) + (~I0 ~I1) + (I1 ~I2) + (~I0 ~I2) + (~I3 I5) + (~I2 ~I3) + (~I4 I5) + (I3 ~I4) + (I1 ~I4)


If you use HAL in an academic context, please cite the framework using the reference below:

author = {{EmSec Chair for Embedded Security}},
publisher = {{Ruhr University Bochum}},
title = {{HAL – The Hardware Analyzer}},
year = {2019},
howpublished = {\url{https://github.com/emsec/hal}},

Feel free to also include the original paper

author = {Marc Fyrbiak and
Sebastian Wallat and
Pawel Swierczynski and
Max Hoffmann and
Sebastian Hoppach and
Matthias Wilhelm and
Tobias Weidlich and
Russell Tessier and
Christof Paar},
title = {{HAL-} The Missing Piece of the Puzzle for Hardware Reverse Engineering,
Trojan Detection and Insertion},
journal = {IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing},
year = {2018},
publisher = {IEEE},
howpublished = {\url{https://github.com/emsec/hal}}

Install Instructions


HAL releases are available via it’s own ppa. You can find it here: ppa:sebastian-wallat/hal


Use the following commands to install hal via homebrew.

brew tap emsec/hal
brew install hal

Build Instructions

Run the following commands to download and install HAL.

$git clone https://github.com/emsec/hal.git && cd hal
>>To install all neccessary dependencies execute
$mkdir build && cd build
$cmake ..

Optionally you can install HAL:

make install

Build on macOS

Please make sure to use a compiler that supports OpenMP. You can install one from e.g. Homebrew via: brew install llvm.

To let cmake know of the custom compiler use following command.

cmake .. -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/usr/local/opt/llvm/bin/clang -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/usr/local/opt/llvm/bin/clang++