Hack-proof RFID chip makes identity theft impossible

4 February 2016
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
A radio identification chip that is virtually impossible to hack has been developed by MIT researchers

A radio identification chip that is virtually impossible to hack has been developed by MIT researchers

A new radio identification (RFID) chip developed by American researchers could bring an end to identity theft.

Developed by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and electronics company Texas Instruments, the hack-proof chip prevents the two most common types of attacks designed to steal a cryptographic key – the so-called side-channel attack and the power glitch attack.

During a side-channel attack the hacker attempts to extract a cryptographic key by analysing patterns in memory access and fluctuations of power usage during a cryptographic operation. In a power glitch attack the goal is to circumvent limits on the number of incorrect password entries. The attacker cuts power supply to the chip right before it changes the secret key, making it impossible to complete the operation.

The MIT team led by Chiraag Juvekar addressed the first problem by designing the new chip to run a random-number generator that would provide a new secret key after every transaction. A central server would run the same generator and every time an RFID scanner queried the tag, it would relay the results to the server, to see if the current key was valid.

To make the power-glitch attacks impossible, the researchers designed the chip to contain its own power supply, since one of the major weaknesses of current RFID chips is that they are charged by tag readers and have no on-board power source.

The power supply was designed in a way that makes it almost impossible to cut. In addition to that, the chip is equipped with what the researchers call non-volatile memory cells. These cells store all the data the chip is using at the moment when it begins to lose power.

Several prototypes of the hack-proof chip have been built by Texas Instruments and subjected to rigorous testing. Presenting the research at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, the researchers said the technology worked exactly as envisioned.

If such chips were widely adopted, it could mean that an identity thief couldn't steal a credit card number or key card information just by sitting next to the card user at a café and high-tech burglars couldn't swipe expensive goods from a warehouse and replace them with dummy tags.

At the San Francisco conference, another MIT team introduced a chip designed specifically to implement neural networks. Ten times as efficient as a mobile GPU, the chip could enable mobile devices to run powerful artificial-intelligence algorithms locally, rather than uploading data to the Internet for processing.

The chip, dubbed Eyeriss, could also speed up the development of the Internet of Things by enabling connected devices, including robots and autonomous cars, to make intelligent decisions by themselves only by running artificial intelligence algorithms.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Spectrum Technology Analyst

    Ofcom
    • Baldock, Hertfordshire
    • £Competitive Plus Comprehensive Benefits Package

    Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications sectors and we are globally respected for the work we do.

    • Recruiter: Ofcom

    Apply for this job

  • Test Engineering Opportunities

    HMGCC
    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Push incredible innovations beyond their limits. Opportunities for Software, Hardware, EMC, Test and Inspection Engineers!

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Development Engineer Opportunities

    HMGCC
    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    At HMGCC, we’re the place where exceptional creativity, ground-breaking ideas and cutting-edge technologies unite.

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Head of School of Engineering and Advanced Technology

    Massey University
    • Albany or Palmerston North

    This role offers an outstanding opportunity to lead and further develop a well-established and internationally recognized School.

    • Recruiter: Massey University

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Support Opportunities

    HMGCC
    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Working in one of our support roles, you’ll be integral to the creation of some of the most advanced bit of kit in the world.

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

  • Programme Manager, Network Resilience

    Energy Networks Association
    • Westminster
    • Competitive salary, dependent on experience

    Co-ordinate the network resilience, emergency planning and the Single Electricity Number (SEN) work in the ENA Engineering team.

    • Recruiter: Energy Networks Association

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Engineer - Configuration

    BAE Systems
    • Surrey, Frimley, England / England, Weymouth, Dorset
    • Negotiable

    Senior Engineer - Configuration Would you like to assist the Combat System Configuration Manager in ensuring that changes to the Common Combat System design are sufficiently assessed, approved, implemented, managed and controlled in accordance with BAE Sy

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • System Planning and Investment Engineer

    SSE
    • Reading
    • 37,000 - £55,000 Plus excellent benefits package - salary depending on experience

    System Planning and Investment team act as custodian of the 132kV and EHV distribution network, provide business with technical expertise.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Chair in Integrated Sensor Technology

    The University of Edinburgh
    • Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh

    The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top 20 institutions of higher education.....

    • Recruiter: The University of Edinburgh

    Apply for this job

  • Metering Engineer

    Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
    • Teddington, United Kingdom
    • £24,109 - £27,961 plus EO Electronics PE of £8,090.00

    We are now looking for a Metering Engineer to deliver RD’s In-Service Testing (IST) scheme for gas and electricity meters.

    • Recruiter: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T