Contemporary physical clone-resistant identity for iots and emerging technologies

Emad Hamadaqa*, Saleh Mulhem, Wael Adi, Mladen Berekovic

*Corresponding author for this work


Internet of things (IoT) technologies have recently gained much interest from numerous industries, where devices, machines, sensors, or simply things are linked with each other over open communication networks. However, such an operation environment brings new security threats and technology challenges in securing and stabilizing such large systems in the IoT world. Device identity in such an environment is an essential security requirement as a secure anchor for most applications towards clone-resistant resilient operational security. This paper analyzes different contemporary authenticated identification techniques and discusses possible future technologies for physically clone-resistant IoT units. Two categories of identification techniques to counteract cloning IoT units are discussed. The first category is inherently cloneable and includes the classical identification mechanisms based on secret and public key cryptography. Such techniques deploy mainly secret keys stored permanently somewhere in the IoT devices as classical means to make units clone-resistant. However, such techniques are inherently cloneable as the manufacturer or device personalizers can clone them by re-using the same secret key (which must be known to somebody) or reveal keys to third parties to create cloned entities. In contrast, the second, more resilient category is inherently unclonable because it deploys unknown and hard to predict born analog modules such as physical unclonable functions (PUFs) or mutated digital modules and so-called secret unknown ciphers (SUCs). Both techniques are DNA-like identities and hard to predict and clone even by the manufacturer itself. Born PUFs were introduced two decades ago; however, PUFs as analog functions failed to serve as practically usable unclonable electronic identities due to being costly, unstable/inconsistent, and non-practical for mass application. To overcome the drawbacks of analog PUFs, SUCs techniques were introduced a decade ago. SUCs, as mutated modules, are highly consistent, being digital modules. However, as self-mutated digital modules, they offer only clone-resistant identities. Therefore, the SUC technique is proposed as a promising clone-resistant technology embedded in emerging IoT units in non-volatile self-reconfiguring devices. The main threats and expected security requirements in the emerging IoT applications are postulated. Finally, the presented techniques are analyzed, classified, and compared considering security, performance, and complexity given future expected IoT security features and requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12.2021


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