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Silicon Fingerprint on Chips Could Make Any Gadget Unhackable

Now with added fingerprints.

At least one U.S. bank has started supplying its customers with cards that contain what is known as a physically unclonable function.

Credit: Cla?en/imageBROKER/Superstock

At least one U.S. bank has started supplying its customers with credit and debit cards that contain a physically unclonable function (PUF).

Every silicon-based chip gets a unique PUF from the way it is manufactured, and it is almost impossible to replicate. "Each chip is born with unique characteristics that are completely uncontrollable and different, just like a fingerprint," says Boris Kennes at Intrinsic-ID in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

PUFs can serve as a way for consumers to defend themselves against hackers in the world of Internet-connected devices.

PUFs are much simpler than conventional security systems because the alignment of silicon crystals in a chip is fixed when it is produced. Upon applying current, bits flip to a 1 or 0 state on the basis of this arrangement, producing a pattern that is basically a signature for the chip. PUFs harness these production patterns for the purposes of encryption, as a signature can be read by passing electricity through the chip.

However, only recently has this technique become accurate and efficient enough to be incorporated into off-the-shelf devices.

In addition, since a chip's fingerprint is only produced when current is flowing, the system is even more secure than most existing approaches.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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