This research project develops ideas and designs that can be used to fingerprint or authenticate computer hardware, to generate cryptographic keys, or form basis of new security protocols, all leveraging the physical properties of the computer hardware. Especially, the focus of this research is on commodity memories found in today's computers, and the work advances fundamental understanding of how the physical properties of memories can be used in computer security. By focusing on hardware already present in commodity computing devices, the ideas developed in this research can be readily deployed. Through development of professional and educational activities, and interaction with international colleagues, this project also supports dissemination of research ideas to a broad audience.

To advance the hardware security research field, this research project explores the cell decay effects in Dynamic Random Access Memories (DRAMs) and applies them to the design of DRAM-based Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs), as well as to development of new virtual proofs of reality and Physical Cryptography primitives, all based on commodity DRAMs. Through design of a manual refresh approach, this research shows how the DRAM's properties can be measured even if DRAM is part of a commodity computer system and actively used by software. Environmental impacts on DRAM are also evaluated and understanding is developed of how the environment affects DRAM-based security primitives. In addition, this research tackles challenges such as theoretical and mathematical issues of developing error correction schemes for use with DRAM PUFs, or practical issues of accelerating DRAM PUF readout time.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
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Alexander Jones
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Yale University
New Haven
United States
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