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As we all know, hacking is a big deal.
Public-key encryption protocols are complicated, and in computer
networks, they're executed by software. But that won't work in the internet of
things, connecting sensors embedded in vehicles, appliances, civil structures,
manufacturing equipment, and even livestock tags, to online servers.
embedded sensors that need to maximize battery life can't afford the energy and
memory space that software execution of encryption protocols would require.
But now, MIT researchers
have built a new chip, hardwired to perform public-key encryption, that
consumes 400 times less power, uses about 10 percent as much memory and
executes 500 times faster. The researchers described the chip in a paper
presented at the International
Solid-State Circuits Conference.
Most modern public-key encryption systems use a technique called
Cryptographers are coming up with curves with
different properties, and they use different primes. What sets the new
chip apart is that it is a hardware solution designed to handle anyelliptic curve.
The MIT chip's modular multiplier section can handle 256-bit
numbers, this eliminates the extra circuitry for integrating smaller
computations, reducing the chip's energy consumption and increases its speed.
Another key operation in elliptic-curve cryptography is
inversion, which is the calculation of a number that, when multiplied by a
given number, will yield a modular product of 1. The MIT researchers equipped
their chip with a special-purpose inverter circuit. This increases the chip's
surface area by 10 percent, but it cuts the power consumption in half.
The most common encryption protocol to use elliptic-curve
cryptography is called the datagram transport layer security protocol, which is
hardwired into the MIT researchers'
chip, dramatically reducing the amount of memory required for its execution.
The chip also features a general-purpose processor that can be
used in conjunction with the dedicated circuitry to execute other elliptic-curve-based
security protocols. And this general-purpose processor can be powered down when
not in use, so it doesn't compromise the chip's energy efficiency.