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Lightweight Public Key Algorithms (PKA) for Low Power Environments


TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Information Systems, Sensors

OBJECTIVE: Identify and develop potential new Public Key Algorithms (PKAs) that can be implemented in low size, weight and power (SWAP) environments. Demonstrate their efficacy in providing low latency communications in dynamically configurable networks. Quantify performance of proposed algorithms with respect to figures of interest such as network size, desired throughput, etc.

DESCRIPTION: The reliance on networks of all kinds is pervasive throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). Of particular and growing importance is the use of networks of distributed, low size, weight and power (SWAP) sensors of limited range that can, by acting cooperatively, provide widearea capability. The informative power of this capability is often directly dependent on the relative quality of communications, both intraand internetwork, that are available to the constituent nodes. Consequently, communication capacity emerges as a vital component of the networked system, and thus its integrity must be ensured. Encryption is typically employed to ensure communication security, but many cryptographic techniques rely on static configurations (e.g., the ability to ensure secure key distribution) to achieve the desired level of protection. Conversely, public key algorithms (PKAs) can be used in dynamic settings.  However, standard implementations such as RSA or those based on discretelogarithms are computationally intensive and have not been designed for use in low SWAP environments.

DARPA is interested in research and development into new classes of PKAs that are particularly well suited for low SWAP network settings. Investigations should include quantitative analysis of the relative strength of any proposed algorithm, as well as characterization of its complexity (both in space and time) and its scalability.

PHASE I: Investigate and identify potential new PKAs. A detailed mathematical analysis of strengths and weaknesses must be provided. Quantify computational complexity, both in space and time, and determine scalability (in terms of network size) of any proposed approach. While this analysis may be supported by simulation, rigorous derivation of all claims is to be preferred. Phase I deliverables should also include a preliminary conceptual design of a network of generic low SWAP sensors on which the proposed PKAs are hosted.

PHASE II: Further develop, demonstrate and validate the efficacy of the PKAs proposed in Phase I. Early proof-of-concept demonstrations should take the form of software simulations that verify the complexity and scalability claims derived earlier in the effort. Later phase effort should be directed toward the construction of a hardware based demonstration comprising networks of low SWAP nodes. For both demonstrations, developers will be responsible for formulating meaningful performance metrics, and constructing a relevant test plan based on these. In addition, it is highly desirable that late phase demonstrations are motivated by realworld applications, and resources should be devoted to ensuring that proposed architectures align with current and future DoD relevant scenarios.

PHASE III: In the commercial realm, this work has the potential for use in mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs), and hence will be of interest to a wide range of telecommunications providers. Because of prevalence of networks and networked sensors throughout the DoD, the research to be undertaken in this effort is of potential value in many military applications. One potential customer is USMC, which makes use of distributed sensors in providing force protection to its expeditionary forces.

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