Data protection is on everyone’s mind these days. The news cycle seems to contain a story about hacking, intrusion or cyber-terrorism on a regular basis. The cloud, our hyperconnected devices and the growing reliance on AI-assisted hardware to manage more and more mission critical functions all around us make data protection a front-of-mind item for many. There are many approaches to address data security, some hardware-based and some software-based with many approaches blending both. All of them have a common liability – the cryptographic key that unlocks data access. Just like an impenetrable vault, having the key to that vault neutralizes its protection. An upcoming webinar outlines a way to implement this all-important key in a unique way, one that doesn’t require storing the key at all. Let’s explore how to protect sensitive data with silicon fingerprints.
First, a bit about the company holding the webinar. Intrinsic ID is a unique company that focuses on security IP. Their stated mission is to make it easy to secure any smart device and make the connected world safer. It’s hard to argue with that. At the core of their strategy is something called a physical unclonable function, or PUF technology. This is where the silicon fingerprint comes in. I’ll get back to that in a moment. If you want more background on the company you can see my recent interview with their CEO, Pim Tuyls.
Back to silicon fingerprints. The concept is to use the innate and unique characteristics of each semiconductor device to create a PUF. A special SRAM cell is used to manifest this capability. It turns out every SRAM cell has its own preferred state every time the SRAM is powered on, resulting from random differences in threshold voltages. By starting with an uninitialized SRAM memory, its response yields a unique and random pattern of 0’s and 1’s. This pattern is the chip’s fingerprint, since it is unique to a particular SRAM and a particular chip.
If this sounds too easy, it is. The SRAM response is a noisy fingerprint and turning it into a high-quality and secure key requires special processing. This is done with the Intrinsic ID IP. With this approach, it is possible to reconstruct exactly the same cryptographic key every time and under all environmental conditions. This approach has some significant advantages. The key is not permanently stored anywhere and so it’s not present when the device is inactive (no key at rest). Hackers who open the device to compromise memory come up empty-handed. There is a lot more to this process. You’ll need to attend the webinar to learn more.
Beyond the basics of how silicon fingerprints work, there’s a lot more moving parts to build an actual secure system. The webinar covers all these steps, including how to:
- Create a PUF root key from a chip’s silicon fingerprint
- Derive device-unique cryptographic keys for different purposes, applications and users
- Create a secure vault
This webinar covers a lot of ground. To give you a preview, here are some of the specific topics that you’ll learn about:
- The need for keys in IoT – many keys are needed, where do they come from?
- How to keep your (root) keys secure
- The SRAM PUF and how creates the root key
- SRAM PUFs vs. traditional methods
- Protecting all keys with a key vault
- Information about the widespread use of these methods
If you’re concerned about protecting data in your next design, you need to attend this webinar, absolutely. You’ll learn about methods to lock your data with a key that is never stored anywhere. This is how to protect sensitive data with silicon fingerprints. The webinar will be broadcast on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 10:00 AM PDT. You can register for the webinar here. You’ll be glad you attended.
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