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Physical unclonable functions

Abstract

A physical unclonable function (PUF) is a device that exploits inherent randomness introduced during manufacturing to give a physical entity a unique ‘fingerprint’ or trust anchor. These devices are of potential use in a variety of applications from anti-counterfeiting, identification, authentication and key generation to advanced protocols such as oblivious transfer, key exchange, key renovation and virtual proof of reality. Here we review the development of PUFs, including those that exploit optical, circuit time-delay and volatile/non-volatile memory characteristics. We examine the various applications of PUFs, and consider the security issues that they must confront, highlighting known attacks to date and potential countermeasures. We also consider the key areas for future development such as bit-specific reliability, reconfigurability and public key infrastructure.

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Fig. 1: PUF basics.

Fingerprint image in a, Andrey Kuzmin / Alamy Stock Vector

Fig. 2: A fuzzy extractor and its two dominant constructions.
Fig. 3: Employing a PUF within the public key infrastructure.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support from NJUST Research Start-Up Funding (AE89991/039) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (61802186).

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Y.G., S.F.A.-S. and D.A. conceived the project, carried out the discussions and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yansong Gao, Said F. Al-Sarawi or Derek Abbott.

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Gao, Y., Al-Sarawi, S.F. & Abbott, D. Physical unclonable functions. Nat Electron 3, 81–91 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-020-0372-5

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