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Silicon Fingerprint on Chips Could Make Any Gadget Unhackable

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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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