The Gap Between Promise and Reality: On the Insecurity of XOR Arbiter PUFs

Georg T. Becker

Work­shop on Cryp­to­gra­phic Hard­ware and Em­bed­ded Sys­tems, CHES 2015, Saint-Ma­lo, Fran­ce, Sep­tem­ber 13 - 16, 2015


In this paper we demonstrate the first real-world cloning attack on a commercial PUF-based RFID tag. The examined commercial PUFs can be attacked by measuring only 4 protocol executions, which takes less than 200 ms. Using a RFID smartcard emulator, it is then possible to impersonate, i.e., “clone” the PUF. While attacking the 4-way PUF used by these tags can be done using traditional machine learning attacks, we show that the tags can still be attacked if they are configured as presumably secure XOR PUFs. We achieved this by using a new reliability-based machine learning attack that uses a divide-and-conquer approach for attacking the XOR PUFs. This new divide-and-conquer approach results in only a linear increase in needed number of challenge and responses for increasing numbers of XORs. This is in stark contrast to the state-of-the-art machine learning attacks on XOR PUFs that are shown to have an exponential increase in challenge and responses. Hence, it is now possible to attack XOR PUF constructs that were previously believed to be secure against machine learning attacks. Since XOR Arbiter PUFs are one of the most popular and promising electrical strong PUF designs, our reliability-based machine learning attack raises doubts that secure and lightweight electrical strong PUFs can be realized in practice.


tags: machine learning, PUFs, Real-World Attacks, XOR PUFs