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Research Team Develops Digital Fingerprint To End Electronics Piracy

Fingerprints. Retinas. Snowflakes. No two are the same. Now, in the wake of a multi-million dollar pirated electronics bust in L.A., researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute near Munich have developed a way to give embedded components of electronics their own physically unique properties in a step towards ending electronic counterfeiting.

Using a ring oscillator PUF, chips can be built with their own physical properties which are recorded as a digital identification key, stored on a separate device or database.

“This oscillator generates a characteristic clock signal which allows the chip’s precise material properties to be determined,” said Fraunhofer’s Dominik Merli. “Special electronic circuits then read these measurement data and generate the component-specific key from the data.”

Using this system, the digital key is unobtainable by way of scanning electron microscopes, focused ion beams or laser bolts as in typical cryptographic processes. In fact, attacks on would cause the chip to be physically altered or destroyed, making each one both unique and uncloneable.

Pirated products and electronics, says the German Engineering Federation, have costed the mechanical and plant engineering sector more than $8 billion USD in 2010, cause manufacturers losses from low-quality fakes and even put lives at risk.

The system has already been successfully integrated into a field programmable gate array that can generate a coded key, says Fraunhofer Institute, which could “allow attack-resistant security solutions to be rolled out in embedded systems.”

The team will also be at the Embedded World Exhibition & Conference in Nuremberg from March 1-3 with their Butterfly PUF prototype.

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