PROACT project improves security of Internet of Things devices

Prof. Nele Mentens and her team are going to investigate how we can better secure our electronic and mobile devices connected to the Internet of Things. For this PROACT project she will receive no less than 1.8 million euros from NWO. They will use this money to develop chips that make the Internet of Things (IoT) more secure.

How do you protect the IoT? 

The IoT consists of all our electronic and mobile devices that are connected to each other. It’s super convenient, of course, and it means we have an abundance of services and entertainment at our fingertips day and night. But we also share a lot of sensitive information. How secure is that? 
Mentens is a professor at the Leiden Institute of Advance Computer Science in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. She explains that the PROACT project is mainly looking at physical attacks on the IoT devices. ‘Physical attacks assume that an attacker can get close to the electronic device that processes secret data. Unfortunately, this is often the case in the IoT. The goal of PROACT is to design new algorithms and silicon chips. These chips should provide protection against physical attacks. In addition, we want to develop new simulation and evaluation techniques for physical security.’ 

Constraints of the IoT

The researchers do have to take into account the constraints of the IoT within this project. First that is the battery lifetime of mobile devices. And secondly, the cost of the silicon chip. And the user must be satisfied with the performance of the new chip. And in addition, the chip must be deliverable quickly. Companies that want to bring new products on the market as quickly as possible will otherwise not use it. Mentens: “The unique thing about the PROACT project is that we satisfy all these conditions. In fact, we are going to automate the development of the secure chips. And we are creating simulation methods that evaluate physical security before the chip is manufactured. This will shorten the time to market. Ultimately, PROACT contributes to better protection of our personal and business-critical data.’

From LIACS, Nele Mentens is coordinator in collaboration with Thomas Bäck and Todor Stefanov.  The partners in the consortium are: Radboud University (researchers Lejla Batina, Ileana Buhan, Joan Daemen), TU Delft (Stjepan Picek), Riscure (Marc Witteman) and Fontys University of Applied Sciences (Teade Punter, Louiza Papachristodoulou). Other partners cooperating: Signify, Intrinsic ID, Neurasmus, DSP Valley, Rambus, NTU Singapore, HTX Singapore and Cadence UK.  

This article was published earlier on the website of Leiden University.

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