A New Security Trend in Data Centers “Physical Unclonable Functions”

A New Security Trend in Data Centers “Physical Unclonable Functions”

Another aspect of the Fungible Data Center platform that’s relatively new to the data center market (although it’s been widely used in other areas) is its use of the naturally unique fingerprint of each processor, comprised of minute imperfections introduced in manufacturing, to make the system more secure. The approach is referred to as Physical Unclonable Function, or PUF.

The composable data center platform Fungible unveiled earlier this year has a number of new approaches to computing infrastructure. Its users can scale compute, storage, and network resources independently, for example. It also relies on Fungible’s own accelerator processor, the Data Processing Unit, or DPU, to offload a lot of the system-management workload from the CPU.

Fungible uses hardware fingerprints to help secure against attackers swapping out hardware, either in the data center or along the supply chain and against attacks on the BIOS.

In addition to being a way to identify each piece of hardware, the fingerprints can be used as the basis of a private key and for authentication.

“Most of the cloud providers and large-scale hyperscalers are moving in this direction,” Satish Kikkeri, senior director of Fungible Compute Products, told DCK.

Physical Unclonable Function (PUF) in the Data Center
Fungible’s firmware uses hardware fingerprints to check that it’s running on the system it’s supposed to be running on. That helps protect against attacks on the software supply chain, like in the case of the SolarWinds breach.

Fungible hard-partitions its servers, which removes vectors for side-channel attacks in multi-tenant environments.

“Security at the lowest level is built into the architecture, the DNA of our solution,” said Kikkeri.

Its composable architecture and security make the platform a good fit for financial workloads, big data analytics, edge computing, high performance computing, and AI and machine learning, he said. Intrinsic ID Expands in the Data Center Market
The Physical Unclonable Function technology in Fungible’s product is by Intrinsic ID. It is a software-based approach that doesn’t require changes to the manufacturing process.

“We selected the Intrinsic ID PUF IP because its SRAM-based approach avoids the complexity of alternatives,” said Kikkeri. “In addition, the IP is silicon-proven and benefits from several years of field deployment.” According to Pim Tuyls, Intrinsic ID founder and CEO, the company’s technology is already in around 250 million devices and is commonly used for mobile and IoT security.

It started to make its way into the data center market only recently. Intrinsic ID uses software to pick up unique performance characteristics of the chip and turn this fingerprint into a private security key.

When chips are manufactured, random physical factors are introduced to their microstructure, which creates minute differences in things like response times to particular commands. These characteristics are impossible to fake. If someone clones a smart card, for example, the fingerprint on the new chip won’t match the old one.

Intrinsic ID’s Physical Unclonable Function tech is currently used in 80 chip families from companies like NXP, Xilinx, and Intel, Tuyl told DCK. It’s leveraged by a variety of cybersecurity vendors, including Venafi, Device Authority, and Globalsign. The technology also plays a role in making confidential computing’s secure enclaves more secure.

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