Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Improved Security For Smart Tags And Other Electronic Payments

Date:
October 8, 2007
Source:
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Summary:
Scientists have devised an inexpensive and efficient way to improve security for radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, the wireless devices that allow consumers to pay for their gas or access buildings without pulling out their wallets. The breakthrough, which uses variations in the tags' existing memory cells, will make their stored information more secure while retaining their small, convenient size.

Three scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have devised an inexpensive and efficient way to improve security for radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, the wireless devices that allow consumers to pay for their gas or access buildings without pulling out their wallets. The breakthrough, which uses variations in the tags’ existing memory cells, will make their stored information more secure while retaining their small, convenient size.

“We believe we’re the first to show how a common existing circuit can both identify specific tags and protect their data,” said Wayne Burleson, researcher. “The key innovation is applying the technology to RFID tags, since they’re such tiny devices with very small memories.”

RFID tags are already used in countless identification and tracking methods, such as passports and inventory control. A common use of these devices is in access control systems, such as corporate or government ID cards, that allow access to buildings and rooms through a tiny radio frequency transmitter. Embedded in these tags are passive systems that respond automatically to electromagnetic fields produced by radio antennas trying to read the tags’ memory.

This technology, while convenient, can be susceptible to breaches in security; for example, credit cards that use RFID technology are vulnerable to thieves who, with the appropriate equipment, can read information from the card without the victim ever taking it out of a pocket.

The team’s new security method uses the concept of random numbers, which are used to encrypt data sent by the tags so that each message transmitted is unique. Machines with the right hardware and software, such as your desktop computer, can easily produce a string of random numbers; however, the tiny circuitry of a matchbook-sized RFID tag isn’t built for that function. The UMass Amherst researchers’ work eliminates the need for specific machinery dedicated to the task. Using specialized software, the tag readers will be able to extract unique data from the tags’ existing hardware.

“An RFID tag has the unusual property that it’s powered up and down by an external source because it doesn’t have a battery,” Burleson said. “We exploit the powering up process and allow the tag’s physical properties to do the work.”

The method relies on the fact that the memory cells within an RFID tag lose all the information stored in them when a power supply is removed. But just when a tag is powered up—in this case, by the receiver of the transmission—some of its memory cells will fluctuate randomly between two binary states before settling onto a stable value. This effect is used to create a series of numbers that allow the RFID to authenticate itself to a reading device.

Since each tag varies slightly from all the others in some ways, such as its threshold voltages and minor dissimilarities in hardware, the variations in each tag’s memory cells are also enough to be used to identify each individual tag. The tag’s producer can use this property to distinguish between tags and detect illicitly cloned tags. “There’s enough complexity in each one that can give it a unique fingerprint,” said Burleson.

Burleson emphasized that the work is still preliminary and that some issues remain unresolved, including the effects of temperature, noise and data retention on the ability to generate quality random numbers and tag identifications. A new larger collaboration between the departments, called Trusted Reliable Embedded Networked Devices and Systems (TRENDS), will explore these issues in the area of embedded security. Burleson and his colleagues hope that their technology will help to make the next generation of RFID tags safer and more reliable.

In July, Wayne Burleson of electrical and computer engineering, and Kevin Fu of computer science, along with electrical and computer engineering graduate student Dan Holcomb presented their results at the annual Conference on RFID Security, which were later published in the society’s proceedings. The multi-disciplinary collaboration among cryptographers and engineers, called the RFID Consortium for Security and Privacy, is part of a research initiative funded by a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve security for the wireless “smart tag” gadgets.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Massachusetts Amherst. "Improved Security For Smart Tags And Other Electronic Payments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071005142527.htm>.
University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2007, October 8). Improved Security For Smart Tags And Other Electronic Payments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071005142527.htm
University of Massachusetts Amherst. "Improved Security For Smart Tags And Other Electronic Payments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071005142527.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google's Inbox Is The Latest Gmail Competitor

Google's Inbox Is The Latest Gmail Competitor

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Google's new e-mail app is meant for greater personalization and allows users to better categorize their mail, but Gmail isn't going away just yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Free Math App Is A Teacher's Worst Nightmare

Free Math App Is A Teacher's Worst Nightmare

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — New photo-recognition software from MicroBlink, called PhotoMath, solves linear equations and simple math problems with step-by-step results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins