The Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors are inextricably linked. According to a recent article in Forbes, “by 2025, it is expected that there will be more than 30 billion IoT connections…and…trillions of sensors connecting and interacting on these devices.” The downside to all this connectivity is that it leaves sensors and their connected networks vulnerable to attacks.
While today’s most vulnerable devices include laptops, computers, smartphones and tablets, most IoT devices, specifically sensors, have fewer processing and storage capabilities and much greater cost sensitivities. As a result, traditional anti-virus, firewalls and other security applications cannot be used. In addition, traditional embedded cryptographic mechanisms are a drain on power and counterproductive to the cost and performance goals of a sensor. Here is where Physically Unclonable Function (PUF) technology comes into play.
PUF’s have been around in some form or another since around for a couple of decades or so. While the focus for PUF technology has usually been at the system or device level, researchers have investigated its use in optical circuits, a CMOS image sensor and a pressure sensing relay in the past.
A PUF protected sensor. Source: MDPI.
In the technical paper “Intrinsic Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) Sensors in Commodity Devices,” the authors discuss an intrinsic temperature sensor based on the decay feature of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) PUF. The alternative approach to providing security authentication assurance relies on hardware circuitry with unique binary or analog behavior which depends on variations in the integrated circuit manufacturing process, such as delays, frequencies or capacitances to achieve unclonability.
IceMOS Technology Ltd., a Northern Ireland supplier of engineered substrates including microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for many applications, is investigating the use of PUF technology for sensors. By adding another layer of device authenticity, and thereby security, at the starting substrate level, IceMOS expects to provide another value-added feature for customers in its manufacturing process. To do this, the company is looking for potential customers and/or partners to verify the potential for the technology and take the concept from feasibility into production. Interested parties should email IceMOS Technology at firstname.lastname@example.org.