NXP strengthens SmartMX2 security chips with PUF anti-cloning technology

NXP Semiconductors is set to be the first company to bring to market smartcard and embedded secure element chips that integrate Intrinsic-ID’s industry-leading PUF (Physically Unclonable Function) technology. PUFs are being used to safeguard individual chips from data theft by using the unique ‘fingerprint’ inherent in every semiconductor device to protect its encryption key, making it very hard to clone and thus reverse-engineer and compromise security microcontrollers.

Global trends such as urbanisation, digitisation of governmental documents, improved banking security and growing NFC adoption means that security chips are being adopted more than ever to protect user data, credentials and finances. In parallel, more sophisticated attacks have been developed that attempt to undermine security chip functionality and steal this information. By integrating Intrinsic ID’s PUF technology into its secure microcontroller SmartMX2, NXP will be able to significantly enhance the chip’s security architecture and strengthen applications such as NFC-enabled mobile payment, electronic ticketing, and eGovernment and cyber security services.

“Concerns about smartcard security have increased with the wide availability of sophisticated tools and invasive techniques to discover the secrets and keys that traditionally protect devices from counterfeiting, tampering and theft-of-data,” said Pim Tuyls, CEO at Intrinsic-ID. “We believe that our PUF technology is ideally suited to helping to overcome this problem, particularly when combined with NXP’s industry-leading secure IC solutions.”

“The use of smartcard and smartcard-type functionality in NFC-enabled phones is becoming increasingly popular around the world. But for many users, security doubts still linger – providing the highest level of security for eID cards, banking cards or NFC smart phones is thus essential,” said Ruediger Stroh, EVP and general manager, Identification business with NXP Semiconductors. “Adding PUF technology to SmartMX2 chips helps to alleviate user doubts as we bring more security and trust to smart life solutions and provide our customers with a key competitive edge. As such, we’re very happy to have entered into this contract with Intrinsic-ID, the undisputed leader in PUF.”

The SmartMX2 is the first security microcontroller with a Common Criteria EAL 6+ certificate issued by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Its IntegralSecurity architecture comes with more than 100 different security features protecting it against reverse engineering, semi-invasive and non-invasive attacks. By adding PUF technology NXP will significantly improve the chip’s protection from reverse engineering attacks, as it removes the permanent presence of the digital encryption key on the device.

PUFs rely on the physical characteristics of SRAM (static random-access memory) technology. After powering up a secure element, the used cells are initialized randomly. This start-up behaviour – bits toggling between zero or one – is different for every individual chip. As such, this content after start-up can serve as a unique fingerprint, which can then be used as a key to protect an encryption key or to protect a memory.

Visitors to next week”s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (Feb 25 – 28) will be able to see NXP’s Mobile Smart Life Solutions at the company’s stand in Hall 7 A111. Together with Intrinsic-ID, NXP will be demonstrating PUF technology on a SmartMX2 test chip with Intrinsic ID’s SATURNUS secure cloud application.



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