Robust Keys from Physical Unclonable Functions

Merrielle Spain, Benjamin Fuller, Kyle Ingols, and Robert Cunningham. Robust Keys from Physical Unclonable Functions. IEEE Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust, 2014.


Weak physical unclonable functions (PUFs) can instantiate read-proof hardware tokens (Tuyls et al. 2006, CHES) where benign variation, such as changing temperature, yields a consistent key, but invasive attempts to learn the key destroy it. Previous approaches evaluate security by measuring how much an invasive attack changes the derived key (Pappu et al. 2002, Science). If some attack insufficiently changes the derived key, an expert must redesign the hardware. An unexplored alternative uses software to enhance token response to known physical attacks. Our approach draws on machine learning. We propose a variant of linear discriminant analysis (LDA), called PUF LDA, which reduces noise levels in PUF instances while enhancing changes from known attacks. We compare PUF LDA with standard techniques using an optical coating PUF and the following feature types: raw pixels, fast Fourier transform, short-time Fourier transform, and wavelets. We measure the true positive rate for valid detection at a 0% false positive rate (no mistakes on samples taken after an attack). PUF LDA improves the true positive rate from 50% on average (with a large variance across PUFs) to near 100%. While a well-designed physical process is irreplaceable, PUF LDA enables system designers to improve the PUF reliability-security tradeoff by incorporating attacks without redesigning the hardware token.