UMass Amherst Engineers Design New Hardware Security Device Using Memristors for True Random Number Generation

Joshua Yang

Engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and their colleagues have developed a new type of hardware security device using memristors that can be used for the rapidly expanding web of devices, sensors and other items known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The work is featured in the journalNature Communications.

Qiangfei Xia and J. Joshua Yang, electrical and computer engineers at UMass Amherst, led a team of scientists who developed the device using a diffusive memristor, a fast, efficient electrical switch that exhibits a natural randomness, or stochasticity. This property is used to create a new type of true random number generator (TRNG) that generates a string of random bits which can be used as a cryptographic key.

The team notes that the random bits generated by the diffusive memristor meet all industry randomness tests without any post-processing, overcoming a problem with existing random number generation technologies.

Qiangfei Xia

The IoT is experiencing rapid growth in the number of devices it contains that communicate electronically. It is estimated there will be 50 billion devices in the IoT by 2020. With its growing reliance on cyberspace, the existing hardware infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a wide range of security threats and hardware security is becoming more important.

One security solution is a TRNG and the memristor-generated version has a number of attractive properties including low power consumption, high security, great scalability and compatibility with existing computer semiconductor technology.

The research team is composed of Xia and Yang along with Hao Jiang, Daniel Belkin, Siyan Lin, Zhongrui Wang, Yunning Li, Saumil Joshi, Rivu Midya, Can Li and Mingyi Rao of the UMass Amherst electrical and computer engineering department. Other members are Sergey E. Savel’ev from the department of physics at Loughborough University in the U.K. and Mark Barnell and Qing Wu of the Air Force Research Lab Information Directorate in Rome, New York.

Belkin was a freshman at Swarthmore College who came to work with Xia on this project last summer under the sponsorship of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program of the National Science Foundation.

Source : University of Massachusetts Amherst