MIT, Texas Instruments Researchers Develop Un-Hackable Radio Frequency Identification Chips

MIT, Texas Instruments Researchers Develop Un-Hackable Radio Frequency Identification Chips

Imagine a future where your identity is solely your possession. Imagine a future where Identity theft was no longer a crime because it doesn’t exist. This is a future that will soon be a reality. Researchers have built several prototypes of a new RFID chip that can prevent side-channel attacks. This “hack” is designed to extract your cryptographic key by analyzing patterns of memory access and/or fluctuations in the power usage when your device is performing a cryptographic function.

Texas Instruments researchers presented their work in San Francisco this past week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference. Chiraag Juvekar says that traditional side-channel attacks continually chip away at your cryptographic algorithm until it gets the whole picture, think of it as a thief getting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle until they have the entire picture. With the new RFID chip, the jigsaw pieces would be randomly generated for a new puzzle each and every time a thief would run the cryptographic algorithm.

Of course as the case with all technology it still runs the risk of being vulnerable to a power glitch attack which would in layman’s term cut out the power in the RFID chip before it could generate a new key or jigsaw piece. This weakness is due to the fact that an RFID tag is charged by the tag reader because they don’t have an onboard power supply. To combat this weakness, researchers have begun looking into ferroelectric crystals which would either provide the RFID chip with an on-chip power supply integrated into the chip circuitry or by having a set of nonvolatile memory cells that can simply store the data on the physical chip itself when it starts to lose power. For either of these solutions the ferroelectric crystals represent a solution for nonvolatile memory that retains the information it holds even after its powered off.

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