With the backdrop of the COVID-19 global pandemic, healthcare professionals are seeing a rise in telehealth practices, as physical distancing guidelines are compelling doctors to conduct more patient visits by phone or online. Smart, connected medical devices are a useful tool in this climate. For example, wearables that provide continuous, real-time monitoring of vital signs can yield a treasure trove of health insights for patients and physicians alike. But, as with any IoT devices, smart medical devices—and the sensitive patient data they collect—can also be vulnerable to security threats if left unprotected.
To protect these sensitive healthcare devices from hackers and other threats, Maxim Integrated (NASDAQ: MXIM) offers robust protection in the form of physically unclonable function, or PUF, technology.
A PUF is derived from the complex and variable physical and electrical properties of ICs. Since it depends on random physical factors introduced during the manufacturing process (and that are unpredictable as well as uncontrollable), PUF technology provides a number of advantages:
- It is virtually impossible to duplicate or clone.
- The digital fingerprint that PUF technology natively generates for its associated IC can be used as a unique secret key to support the algorithms that are used in authentication, identification, anti-counterfeiting, hardware-software binding, and encryption/decryption.
- An effective PUF implementation should be inherently nonvolatile, requiring no battery or other permanent power source.
- The circuitry should be resistant to physical inspection, and the key should be generated only when needed for a cryptographic operation.
Maxim Integrated’s version of PUF technology, called ChipDNA™ technology, is even more robust. A ChipDNA PUF circuit relies on the naturally occurring random analog characteristics of fundamental MOSFET devices to produce the cryptographic keys. It ensures that the unique binary value generated by each PUF circuit can be repeated over temperature and voltage and as the device ages. This unique value is never stored on the chip. This differs from many traditional security implementations, where secret keys are stored in nonvolatile memories like NOR/NAND flashes or on special external memory chips like battery-backed SRAMs. Instead, with ChipDNA PUF technology, the secret key is generated only when needed by the PUF circuit and disappears when it’s no longer needed. Also, if a hacker tries to conduct an invasive physical attack on a PUF-based device, the attack itself would change the electrical characteristics of the PUF circuit, further impeding the attack.
The DeepCover® MAX32520 secure Arm® Cortex®-M4 microcontroller with secure boot is the industry’s first secure microcontroller with PUF technology. To learn more about the MAX32520 and how to protect smart medical devices, read the blog, “Safeguard Smart Medical Devices for Enhanced Patient Safety.”