RFID Security and Privacy Cybertrust Grant

12 January 2009

UVa Today has an article about our (myself, abhi shelat, John Lach, and Ben Calhoun) recent NSF Cybertrust grant on RFID security and privacy: U.Va. Team Receives $1 Million Grant To Improve RFID Security, by Brevy Cannon, 9 January 2009.

Some excerpts:

To address the problematic use of custom cryptography, the U.Va. research team will develop an encryption scheme that is relatively strong — providing some measure of privacy and security — but that can be implemented at almost zero cost by repurposing the meager hardware resources already available on common RFID tags. Providing a solution that adds virtually no cost is crucial, because these RFIDs are made by the billions, at such low costs (5 cents or less apiece) that there is no margin for any added expense.

The team is breaking new ground by using a holistic design approach that considers how all the various levels of the design — the hardware, the encryption algorithm and how it is used — work together, mindful of how an attacker will target the single weakest link in the design.

The research team hopes their research will forestall that possibility, enabling RFIDs to be used in countless ingenious applications not yet dreamt of, without sacrificing privacy and security in a Faustian bargain.