Provably Unclonable Functions on Re-configurable Devices


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Sensors, Electronics 

OBJECTIVE: Sensitive battlefield communications require absolute verification of intended recipients. An effective protocol to authenticate communications can be defined using provably unclonable functions (PUF). By design, these functions depend on manufacturing variations and can uniquely identify specific instantiations of a device [1]. In most designs, a PUF requires specially designed circuits implemented within an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). As such these devices must be explicitly included in the communications hardware design, which can increase cost and preclude retrofitting fielded systems. An alternative solution is sought that can exploit re-configurable devices such as field programmable gate arrays (FPGA). Such a development will enable a low-cost software solution enabling hardware-authenticated communications in currently fielded systems. 

DESCRIPTION: A requirement for securing the cyber battlespace is an ability to authenticate the recipients for sensitive data communications. To avoid being spoofed by a malicious network element, a transmitter must validate the identity of each recipient, which can be accomplished using unique hardware-dependent keys provided by provably unclonable functions (PUF) [1]. These specialized circuits exploit non-reproducible manufacturing variations to provide a device-dependent query that is effectively impossible to predict or replicate. Proposed PUF devices often assume specialized circuitry implemented in an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). A requirement to include an ASIC in a design can significantly increase system cost and complexity, especially when considering upgrades to existing and fielded systems. In contrast, a PUF that can be implemented using general-purpose, re-configurable hardware is extremely appealing. An effective PUF must exhibit extreme sensitivity to manufacturing variations, yet it must be deterministic in order to provide a consistent query response. A promising approach is to use chaotic dynamics in unclocked and unstable logic circuits implemented in a field programmable gate array (FPGA) [2,3]. Other approaches may also meet these requirements. To capitalize on recent advances, a novel approach is sought to develop a practical PUF realization that can be realized on a general purpose FPGA. Such a device should exhibit sufficient entropy to support unique component verification, yet it must be sufficiently deterministic to enable identification under various operating conditions. The intent of this solicitation is to develop a critical component that enables next-generation authenticated communication technology for a variety of applications. As such, the solicitation is not limited to a particular system or performance specification. 

PHASE I: Conduct a design study with detailed model development for a PUF implementation using commercially available FPGA devices. Simulation, testing, and theoretical analysis will identify a preferred concept design. Consideration will be given to complexity, reliability, ease of integration with conventional systems, and a theoretical foundation to verify PUF operation. 

PHASE II: Finalize a PUF design and demonstrate an implementation suitable for use in brass-board authenticated communication systems. Performance metrics will establish effective entropy metrics, consistency, reliability, resource requirements, and costs. Potential military and commercial applications will be identified and targeted for Phase III exploitation and commercialization. 

PHASE III: The development of a FPGA provably unclonable function for device identification and authentication enables next-generation secure network communications. These technologies offer potential benefits across a wide swath of communications and sensor networks for both military and civilian applications. Some specific examples of possible applications are anonymous computation, software IP binding, and online hardware/software authentication for re-configurable platforms. 


1: R. Maes, Physically Unclonable Functions. Springer-Verlag Berlin An, 201

2:  D. P. Rosin, D. Rontani, D. J. Gauthier. Ultrafast physical generation of random numbers using hybrid Boolean networks, Phys. Rev. E 87, 040902R (2013).

3:  S. D. Cohen. Structured scale dependence in the Lyapunov exponent of a Boolean chaotic map, Phys. Rev. E 91, 042917 (2015).

KEYWORDS: True, Random, Number, Generation, Entropy 


Jonathan Blakely 

(256) 876-3495 

Ned Corron 

(256) 876-1860 

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