This physical unclonable function (PUF) based authentication and key generation mechanism utilizes the existing reconfigurable logic elements of an FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) to enhance a device's security. An FPGA facilitates reconfiguring a device’s functionality by reprogramming its logic elements, even after deployment. This feature makes them an attractive and cost-effective option for diverse applications. The global FPGA market should reach $8.6 billion by 2025. The use of FPGAs in applications demanding high levels of security – for instance, an F-35 fighter jet – propels the need for robust hardware security measures. The existing PUF-based security solutions mostly rely on external components, and as they are exposed to adversaries, it makes the FPGAs vulnerable to potential attacks. They also occupy more system resources (e.g., logic elements) and are expensive to implement.
Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a synthesizable physical unclonable function-based authentication technique that generates device-specific digital signatures. This security measure is conservative on system resources, utilizes the existing on-board infrastructure, and can be realized at a negligible cost.
Create a synthesizable physical unclonable function in an FPGA as a security measure
To provide programmable security on an FPGA, UF researchers suggest a solution they term MeL PUF, meaning Memory-in-Logic PUF. It exploits the existing reconfigurable logic elements on an FPGA as an intrinsic source of randomness(entropy. This technique transforms the inherent randomness into a unique key that serves as a device-specific, unique digital fingerprint.