Next-gen IoT security project being developed
A team of electrical engineers, led by assistant professor and principal investigator Fatemeh Afghah of Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS), earned a $750,000 grant by the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation Program to develop and commercialize a next-generation cryptosystem capable of protecting IoT devices from cybersecurity attacks through advanced authentication procedures.
Protecting devices from cyberattacks is often software-based, which limits secure authentication by using unique identifying properties. Afghah and her team are developing a software-hardware hybrid security platform that implementing physically unclonable functions. The system relies on the unique properties of a device’s memory to provide a technological “fingerprint” unique to each device. The proposed solution uses ultra-low-power memory, such as resistive random access memory. Advanced error correction methods will help ensure authentication.
“One of our main contributions with this project designing new algorithms and mechanisms is to ensure that we can always correctly authenticate a device, no matter what physical environment it’s in,” Afghah said.
The team will work with several industry partners. These partners will build these devices, evaluate their performance under a range of environmental conditions, and manufacture cost-effective products.
“If we can make this happen, it will be a very competitive solution for the IoT, since, despite the current cryptographic methods where the cryptographic keys are stored in devices’ memories, no security keys will be stored in the proposed security module,” Afghah said. “It could have a huge impact on society and the economy by protecting millions of IoT devices against physical hijacking.”