Low-Power, Stable and Secure On-Chip Identifiers Design

Abstract

Trustworthy authentication of an object is of extreme importance for secure protocols. Traditional methods of storing the identity of an object using non-volatile memory is insecure. Novel chip-identifiers called Silicon Physical Unclonable Functions (PUFs) extract the random process characteristics of an Integrated Circuit to establish the identity. Though such types of IC identifiers are difficult to clone and provide a secure, yet an area and power efficient authentication mechanism, they suffer from instability due to variations in environmental conditions and noise. The decreased stability imposes a penalty on the area of the PUF circuit and the corresponding error correcting hardware, when trying to generate error-free bits using a PUF. In this thesis, we propose techniques to improve the popular delay-based PUF architectures holistically, with a focus on its stability. In the first part, we investigate the effectiveness of circuit-level optimizations of the delay based PUF architectures. We show that PUFs which operate in the subthreshold region, where the transistor supply voltage is maintained below the threshold voltage of CMOS, are inherently more stable than PUFs operating at nominal voltage because of the increased difference in characteristics of transistors at this region. Also, we show that subthreshold PUF enjoys higher energy and area efficiency. In the second part of the thesis, we propose a feedback-based supply voltage control mechanism and a corresponding architecture to improve the stability of delay-based PUFs against variations in temperature. Acknowledgments Firstly, I would like to thank Dr. Leyla Nazhandali for her continued support and for providing me with interesting research topics. Priya and Sinan Huang for their assistance through the course of my masters. Finally, I would like to thank my parents Dr. Vivekraja and Mrs. Santhi Vivekraja, and my family for their continued encouragement and support.

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