Scientists `fingerprint` chips to make them foolproof

Counterfeiters are targeting chips, electronic components, causing losses running into billions of dollars.

Updated: Feb 09, 2011, 15:53 PM IST

London: Counterfeiters are targeting chips and electronic components, causing losses running into billions of dollars besides putting people`s lives at risk in areas where safety is paramount -- automobile and aircraft engineering.

Although anti-piracy technology provides a degree of protection, it no longer is an insurmountable obstacle for the counterfeiters.

However, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT) in Germany are set to tackle this problem.

They will be demonstrating how electronic components or chips can be made foolproof using physical unclonable functions (PUFs), according to a Fraunhofer Institute statement.

"Every component has a kind of individual fingerprint since small differences inevitably arise between components during production," explains Dominik Merli, scientist at Fraunhofer SIT.

A PUF module is integrated directly into a chip - a setup that is feasible not only in a large number of programmable semiconductors known as FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) but equally in hardware components such as microchips and smartcards.

Researchers have already developed two prototypes -- a butterfly PUF and a ring oscillator PUF. At present, these modules are being optimized for practical applications.

Fraunhofer researchers will be presenting a prototype at the embedded world exhibition and conference in Nuremberg from March 1-3.