Title page for ETD etd-05092012-113034

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Maiti, Abhranil
Author's Email Address abhranil@vt.edu
URN etd-05092012-113034
Title A Systematic Approach to Design an Efficient Physical Unclonable Function
Degree PhD
Department Electrical and Computer Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Schaumont, Patrick Robert Committee Chair
Kim, Inyoung Committee Member
Nazhandali, Leyla Committee Member
Shukla, Sandeep K. Committee Member
Tront, Joseph G. Committee Member
  • Process variation
  • Physical Unclonable Function
  • Security
Date of Defense 2012-04-30
Availability unrestricted

A Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) has shown a lot of promise to solve many security issues due to its ability to generate a random yet chip-unique secret in the form of an identifier or a key while resisting cloning attempts as well as physical tampering. It is a hardware-based challenge-response function which maps its responses to its challenges exploiting complex statistical variation in the logic and interconnect inside integrated circuits (ICs). An efficient PUF should generate a key that varies randomly from one chip to another. At the same time, it should reliably reproduce a key from a chip every time the key is requested from that chip. Moreover, a PUF should be robust to thwart any attack that aims to reveal its key. Designing an efficient PUF having all these qualities with a low cost is challenging. Furthermore, the efficiency of a PUF needs to be validated by characterizing it over a group of chips. This is because a PUF circuit is supposed to be instantiated in several chips, and whether it can produce a chip-unique identifier/key or not cannot be validated using a single chip. The main goal of this research is to propose a systematic approach to build a random, reliable, and robust PUF incurring minimal cost.

With this objective, we first formulate a novel PUF system model that uncouples PUF measurement from PUF identifier formation. The proposed model divides PUF operation into three separate but related components. We show that the three PUF quality factors, randomness, reliability, and robustness, can be improved at each component of the system model resulting in an overall improvement of a PUF. We proposed three PUF enhancement techniques using the system model in this research. The proposed techniques showed significant improvements in a PUF.

Second, we present a large-scale PUF characterization method to validate the efficiency of a PUF as a secure primitive. A compact and portable method measured a sizable set of around 200 chips. We also performed experiments to test a PUF against variations in operating conditions (temperature, supply voltage) and circuit aging.

Third, we propose a method that can evaluate and compare the performance of different PUFs irrespective of their underlying working principles. This method can help a designer to select a PUF that is the most suitable one for a particular application. Finally, a novel PUF that exploits the variability in the pipeline of a microprocessor is presented. This PUF has a very low area cost while it can be easily integrated using software programs in an application having a microprocessor.

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