Verayo claims its RFID is unclonable

* Verayo develops electronic DNA for seminconductor ICs that extracts unique 'secrets' from each IC

When I heard that a relatively new company here in Silicon Valley was touting its product as an "unclonable" RFID chip, I was intrigued. So when Verayo's Vivek Khandelwal, director of marketing invited me to Palo Alto for a demonstration, I jumped at the chance.

Verayo has only been called that for a few months, but the company has been around as PUFCO for a few years. Now that it wants to move beyond the government market into the commercial space, it was felt that a new, more “with it” name was needed. The company was originally named for the patented technology it uses, Physical Unclonable Functions (PUF).

As Khandelwal explained it, PUF is a silicon "biometrics" technology, a type of electronic DNA or fingerprint technology for semiconductor integrated circuits (IC). PUF extracts unique "secrets" from each and every IC. These secrets are used to authenticate ICs, and enable a broad range of security applications.

The company is able to create multiple PKI-like "key pairs" based on these impurities so that a given chip will always respond to a particular stimulus in a predictable way. And, because it’s the impurities in the silicon that cause this effect, it’s impossible to create a chip that will respond to a specific stimulus.

Since Verayo can’t design the “key pair” ahead of time, its also impossible for anyone else to create a chip that mimics the behavior of an existing one. Not that Verayo claims each “signature” is unique; just that it's sufficiently rare. The rarity can be controlled by using longer bit-length keys if the particular security environment (say, entrance to a nuclear test facility) requires it.

But smaller keys (8-, 16-, 32-bit for example) could be used in high-end retail goods (Gucci bags for example) to provide proof of authenticity.

Moderately long keys might be useful for an RFID-embedded driver’s license, for example. Readers in bars could be programmed to verify the authenticity of the license, which could then be used as proof of age by the buyer.

Proximity cards, smartcards – anything that could contain an RFID chip – could all be easily authenticated as being what they purport to be in addition to having the data that they carry be authenticated.

While the company is currently focused on the RFID market (because that’s where it started), other uses (cell phone SIMs, for example) could be right around the corner. Take a look at Verayo and pay attention.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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