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Security for RFID Tags

Fri, 10/20/2006 - 7:20am
SecureRF Corporation’s RFID tag device is based on a cryptography that is both lightweight and highly secure. Until now, existing security algorithms could not provide strong authentication and data protection on RFID tags. The reason: These algorithms, many of them over 20 years old, rely on multiplying large numbers and require more computing resources than are available on RFID tags.

Security for RFID tags is now available with SecureRF’s Algebraic Eraser™ (AE). According to the company, this security algorithm is thousands of times more efficient than other commercial solutions. The AE uses a relatively new but well developed branch of mathematics called infinite group theory. The algorithm works based on quick iterations of small numbers, so it achieves the same security strength as current solutions, but requires far less computing resources. As a result, strong data protection and authentication security are available on passive EPC Global Gen 2 compliant RFID tags and on active RFID tags.

The AE engine supports a wide range of cryptographic functions including authentication, data protection and repudiation. It is suitable for both symmetric (private key) or asymmetric (public key) cryptosystems, as well as hash functions, digital signatures or other cryptographic uses. In addition to its own secure RFID tag solution, SecureRF can deliver the AE security engine as a software toolkit, gates for a chip or even a chip itself, addressing a wide range of applications and environments.

How can the AE security algorithm be so efficient and yet be highly secure at the same time? In part, the answer hinges on attributes of the mathematics of infinite group theory. A layperson can think of infinite group theory as the mathematics of braids or knots. The quality that makes this desirable for cryptography is similar to the fact that a fishing line can get entangled in a few seconds while it may take hours to untangle. With infinite groups, calculating in one direction is easy, but reversing it is extremely difficult.

Another feature of the algorithm is a cloaking function that erases part of the information as it goes along, hence the name Algebraic Eraser. This increases efficiency because smaller numbers are used. It also increases security, because the AE process itself effectively erases the data that would be required for the system to be reversed (and hence, broken).Traditional cryptographic algorithms do not have an erasing feature and require the multiplication and division of very large numbers thus contributing to the need for large storage and processing resources. In fact, as greater security levels are demanded the more efficient the AE becomes compared to existing algorithms. Traditional cryptographic functions require computational levels that grow exponentially as the keysize increases.

In addition, the AE is believed to be the world’s first algorithm to have computational requirements that increase in direct proportion (linearly) to the keysize, thus running orders of magnitude faster than has been previously seen.

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