New from German research firm Fraunhofer is the announcement that they have developed a "fingerprinted" electronic chip that cannot be copied by digital thieves.
Electronic thievery is becoming not only more common but more high-tech as would-be virtual robbers use electron microscopes and ion scanning beams to clone chips made by major manufacturers. These chips are then replicated en masse and sold as brand name parts, to the tune of a 6.4 billion Euro loss in 2010 according to the German Engineering Federation.
This has prompted swift action by research firm Fraunhofer, who have created a chip that they say is unstealable beacuse it has "fingerprints".
These fingerprints are in fact small differences in each chip that occur during production, be they length, thickness or other minute variances. By integrating what they have termed a physically unclonable function (PUF) module into the chips, the Fraunhofer team was able to generate a unique code for each one, making it different from all of its brothers and sisters in production.
The idea is that they key would be generated on-demand and would depend on the function the device was performing. If a physical attack on the chip came - for instance a scanning device - its physical properties would be altered and the key would change, preventing the would-be thief from getting the information they need. Chips without the PUF module in place would not be able to generate a key and would be easily identifiable as fakes.
Fraunhofer's PUF modules are intended to be used not only in semiconductors such as FPGAs but also microchips and smartcards, meaning that both security and uniqueness could soon be coming to an electronic device near you.
The design is slated to be shown at embedded world Exhibition and Conference in March of 2011 and looks like it will steal the show.