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Security chips boast PUF anti-cloning tech

26 Feb 2013

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NXP Semiconductors N.V has unveiled smartcard and embedded secure element chips that incorporate Intrinsic-ID's Physically Unclonable Function (PUF) technology. According to the company, PUFs are an innovative way of safeguarding individual chips from data theft by using the unique 'fingerprint' inherent in every semiconductor device to protect its encryption key, making it very hard to clone and thus reverse-engineer and compromise security MCUs.

By integrating Intrinsic ID's PUF technology into its secure MCU SmartMX2, NXP significantly enhances the chip's security architecture and strengthens applications such as NFC-enabled mobile payment, electronic ticketing, and eGovernment and cyber security services, the company stated.

Intrinsic-ID's PUF technology is being integrated into future generations of SmartMX2 security chips. The SmartMX2 claims to be the world's first security MCU with a Common Criteria EAL 6+ certificate issued by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Its IntegralSecurity architecture comes with more than 100 different security features protecting it against reverse engineering, semi-invasive and non-invasive attacks. Adding PUF technology significantly improves the chip's protection from reverse engineering attacks, as it removes the permanent presence of the digital encryption key on the device.

PUFs rely on the physical characteristics of SRAM technology. After powering up a secure element, the used cells are initialized randomly. This start-up behaviour—bits toggling between zero or one—is different for every individual chip. As such, this content after start-up can serve as a unique fingerprint, which can then be used as a key to protect an encryption key or to protect a memory.

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